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Archive for the ‘Book Clubs’ Category

Last night, on a GORGEOUS Spring evening just before Mother’s Day, readers from Rhode Island gathered in Newport to hear about some superb new books to bring to the beaches this summer, and to give to moms on Mother’s Day.

The evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, educators, librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles.

This time, we gathered for the first time ever outside our home state of Vermont at the Salvation Cafe in Newport. There we sipped drinks and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for BabySteps, a Rhode Island based early childhood education center.  We focused on GREAT books for summer reading, because summer is just around the corner, and Newport is a great place to remember the pleasures of beaches.

Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their mother’s day shopping during the event, and most got a good start on stocking up on great summer reading.  We also raised around $600 for BabySteps, while increasing sales for a treasured independent bookstore – Island Books of Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island.
Since most of you could not join us in person, we now share the great titles discussed in Newport. This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. Each of their selections is linked to Island Books web site where you can learn more about the picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting a head start on your summer of great reading.

Our SUPERB presenters included (and we truly thank them for their time and talents):

  • Ann Hood, Acclaimed Author – Ann is an avid knitter, a nomad, a book lover, and a writer. She travelled all the way from Providence for this event. She’s also a native Rhode Islander.
  • Linda Finn, Board Chair of BabySteps, an early childhood learning program – Linda is a first term, part-time State Representative for Middletown and Portsmouth. She also owns and operates Linda Finn Garden Design, a residential landscape design firm; is a founding member of RI Coalition Against Gun Violence; and, is the Board Chair of BabySteps.
  • Judy Crosby, Owner of Island Books – Judy is the owner of Island Books in Middletown and Newport. When not working at the stores you can find her at home in Portsmouth reading, cooking or gardening. With “Pages in the Pub”, she fulfills the longtime dream of having a book event at the Salvation Cafe thanks to owner Sue Lamond, champion of all things ‘local’ and great supporter of Island Books!

And representing the Book Jam:

  • Lisa Christie, Co-Founder of The Book Jam – Lisa is, among other things, the co-founder of the Book Jam and a nonprofit consultant. One of her best jobs was being the founder/first director of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide literacy organization. And, while she loves living in Vermont, she was VERY excited to be in Newport for an evening.

 

 

Non-fiction or reference book – For people who like to ponder large tomes during summer vacations

  • Centrist Manifesto by Charles Whelan (2013). Selected by Lisa – Usual politics tiring? He proposes solutions.
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2013). Selected by Linda – Friendship, politics, muckrakers. Facts like fiction!

Memoirs – For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories

Adult Fiction – For women who have time for the best fiction while at the beach

  • After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (2014). Selected by Ann – Secrets, lies, disappearances, a tangled web!
  • Under the Wide & Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2014). Selected by Ann – Improbable, impassioned, adventurous, unforgettable love story.
  • We Are Water by Wally Lamb (2013). Selected by Linda – Very modern, engaging, family drama.
  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (2014). Selected by Judy – Multi-layered coming-of-age. Keeps pages turning.


 

 

 

 

Adult fiction – For men who have enough camping equipment, but not enough good fiction

  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra (2014). Selected by Lisa – AMAZING writing. Chechnya conflict. Great characters.
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers (2014). Selected by Linda – Intrigue, internet, music fuel this mystery.                                 
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (2014). Selected by Judy – Mars Mission. Accident.  Man’s struggle to survive.

 

Cookbooks or coffee table books or reference books – For your favorite grad or dad

 

Books for summer campers/ young reader (ages 8-12) – books for those beyond tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics.

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (2014). Selected by Lisa – Lonely girl uncovers painting. Solves mystery.
  • Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody (2013). Selected by Lisa – How a boy inspired Robin Hood.

Books for your favorite High Schooler – “not required” reading for teens to ponder during the long hours of summer vacation

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (2002). Selected by Judy – Must-read (or re-read) for everyone before movie!

BONUS – PERFECT books for the moms in your life, or last minute gifts to ensure a Happy Mother’s Day

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It has been a bizarre winter here in Vermont.  Classic, picture-perfect snow storms, with lots of great powder for our famous ski slopes, have been followed by sleet, freezing rain, and March-like weather with thawing and balmy days.  And then it snows all over again.  And then it drops far below zero. So this means that we have been making sure we ski or snow shoe while the opportunity exists; and, we have been reading a lot of good fiction by our respective wood stoves and fireplaces to keep warm.  As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” Good thing it’s always the perfect weather for reading.

Two recommended books from our most recent reading are reviewed below.  And, because we have been reading so many good books lately, and we never know what you all are in the mood to read, we put in a bonus pick or two.

9781476729084The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this review for Simsion’s international bestsellerThe Rosie Project. I loved this crisply smart romantic comedy that takes you into the world of socially challenged Don Tillman, a 39-year-old geneticist looking for love in all of the wrong ways. It doesn’t help that he has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner, that he “speed date” eliminates those who answer incorrectly, and that probably no one would meet his criteria.  When he meets Rosie, a sharp, beautiful “barmaid” 10 years his junior, he doesn’t know quite what to make of how he feels and of the ensuing series of unplanned, wacky events.  This is sort of a “When Harry Met Sally” story with a Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime narrator. Throw in a DNA matching side plot and you have yourself a love story with a little science on the side.

And for those TEDx fans, when you’re finished with the book, make sure to check out Simsion’s talk. As a former physicist and IT guy, he comes to writing screenplays and novels later in life. As you will learn, however, all of this experience contributed greatly to the crafting of The Rosie Project. ~Lisa Cadow

Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (2014) – This is Mr. Beah’s first novel, but not his first published work.  His acclaimed memoir A Long Way Gone, about his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic that “everyone in the world should read” (The Washington Post).  So with that build up, our thoughts on his fiction.  Yes, Radiance of Tomorrow is set in Africa.  And yes, the other Lisa and I seem to pick books with this setting often.  But unlike many novels with African settings that focus on life during a civil war or leading up to a war, this novel looks at what happens AFTER a civil war, with insight and grace.

In Radiance of Tomorrow, Mr. Beah explores what happens when people return to their villages when fighting is over.  Yes, it was a bit depressing to read his descriptions of what foreigners do when they arrive post-war to “help”.  Yes, when I assumed most of this novel was based in the reality of the author’s own experiences in Sierra Leone, it was even more disturbing.  But, trust me please; somehow, this book is also up-lifting.  Perhaps because the characters – the children, the elders, the mothers and fathers – are superbly memorable, the hope they carry with them is inspiring, and the prose is well-crafted. ~ Lisa Christie

Some other books worth mentioning from our 2014 wood stove reading

Thrillers/mysteries

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen (2013)- The latest Department Q novel shows how the misfit threesome stuck in the bowels of the Copenhagen Police Department have become an effective cold-case solving unit, and a worthy (and unique) family. ~ Lisa Christie

Myths

Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1942) – I have been inspired to re-read this by an amazing Greek unit from my son’s fifth grade English and Social Studies classes. What a great gift to me!  I am loving spending some time with Perseus, Medusa, Hercules, Theseus, and the Gods. ~ Lisa Christie (with Lisa Cadow seconding the staying power and fun of this book)

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We are back from our August “gone reading” break and have some wonderful books to share with you. We chose only two for today’s post and will highlight many more during the remainder of 2013.  Some future picks will include cookbooks, memoirs (some are even cooking memoirs!) as well as a few great old-fashioned stories.

So before Autumn officially begins next week and the leaves truly blaze with color here in Vermont, we thought we would start with one title each that rose to the top of each of our lists.  These are not necessarily our favorite books from the summer, but they are the ones we are still thinking about, even as the leaves begin to fall to the ground, and ones we can recommend highly to all of you.  And, by pure coincidence the reviews both mention Jane Austen.

And now, drumroll please….

 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013). This book shows just how well Karen Joy Fowler can write. She burst on to the literary scene in 2004 with her bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club and while I enjoyed her first novel, this most recent effort eclipses it, taking a deep look at human and animal behavior, and the meaning of family. Part of the power of this story results from the way Fowler has chosen to craft it –  the first eighty pages yielding a surprise to the reader who comes to it without knowing too much at the outset.  If you don’t want spoilers and trust me as a reviewer, then read no further and just pick up a copy of this book and get started.  But for those who wish to know more, continue on. This is a fictional portrait of a family who chose to raise a chimpanzee in their home alongside their biological children (based on actual experiments that were happening in the United States in the 1970’s). Meet narrator Rosemary and her older brother.  Then move around in time with them from college years, to adulthood, and back to childhood as a picture of this strange upbringing emerges, and their later lives take shape in reaction to it. What the reader is ultimately left with after turning the last page is an insight into the profound relationships and connections that exist in the animal kingdom. Highly, highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

Capital by John Lanchester (2012) – This book is brilliant.  As you begin, you think it is a straightforward story about a disparate group of Londoners united only by the fact they all live on the same street – Pepys Road in London.  And, it is true — the novel plots an intriguing story line.  However, what sneaks up on you is the social commentary. Hopefully, without creating unfair images, or unintentionally offending anyone, you could think of the author as a male Jane Austen for modern times.  How, could we compare him so?  Well, mostly because Mr. Lanchester (an award-winning journalist and novelist) nails life in the 21st century and all its messes and glories — immigration, bank failures, the consumer culture, football, love, art, terrorism, dying, twitter, to name a few.   Each chapter is a short two to three page look into the lives of people residing in one of the various houses on Pepys Road. The next chapter takes up the next household’s stories, and the next circles back again.  In each chapter, each resident is reacting to their own unique life and the personalities that inhabit it, but also to the fact they are all receiving anonymous postcard pictures of their homes each marked with the ominous message — “We want what you have”.  Each chapter is also a cliffhanger, often causing you to read on longer than your time, and your need for sleep, should allow.  As the chapters stitch together, this book lingers long after the last page.  Enjoy. I highly recommend this for anyone in the mood for a contemporary novel that offers insight without preaching, and laughter. ~ Lisa Christie

 

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