Archive for March, 2011

March 22, 2011

March Recommendations

For the month of March, Emma recommends the following four titles:

Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

Emma says: The first novel by the crazed mind that belongs to Chuck Palahniuk. He may be crazed, but he is brilliant. He redefines modern fiction and has created a genre all its own. Fight Club went on to be a hit classic film directed by David Fincher. Devilish fun!

Did you know? Like with any book-to-film adaptation, the movie has quite a few differences from the book. You can find a list of all the differences between the two at the blog The Book Was Better. Even the author of this blog admits that the movie and the book are both pretty darn good. Have you read both? Which did you enjoy more? Also, Palahniuk has a website chock full ‘o content about himself, his fourteen novels, and other works. You can even find out how to pronounce his name on his FAQ page.

Dry – Augusten Burroughs

Emma says: I have been on many journeys with Augusten Burroughs. Some dark, some scary, all of them funny. Dry is an inspiration. A true and vivid account of drug addiction and recovery — with a heavy dose of heart and hilarity. A five-star knock-out!

Did you know? Burroughs has a few television and film adaptations in the works. He is writing screenplays for a television adaptation of Dry for Showtime, and he is working on an original television production for CBS: the new show The Nature of Fire, about a troupe of firemen. Bryans Fuller (producer, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies) and Singer (producer, The Usual Suspects and X-Men) are adapting Burroughs first novel, Sellevision, for NBC. (source)

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March 17, 2011

Bookbyte: Practical Magic

Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic was published sixteen years ago. Hoffman herself turned 59 yesterday.

Hoffman has a way of telling the story that feels like, well, like she’s telling story. Some voices make you think you’re there, experiencing the action. But Hoffman’s story is a little detached from that, yet manages to feel more intimate. You’re in the room with her while she spins her mystical tale. There’s little dialog in this book; instead, images are conjured right out of thin air!

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March 16, 2011

Bookbyte: Gods in Alabama

Our book club read Joshilyn Jackson’s gods in Alabama. Unfortunately, I had to miss the meeting, but I did read the book. So instead of a book club recap, we’ll just have a  review.

gods is a fast-paced, humorous, Southern-flavored romp. It has a killer opening line: “There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel’s, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus.” The titular gods are lower case in the title for a reason.

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March 14, 2011

March Recommendations

For March, Mike recommends classics, philosophy, and poetry:

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, the great Victorian diva. From her aunt’s parlor to the remains of Thornfield Hall, Jane always has her own way of doing things. Can you trust her? It’s up to you. Enjoy the more interesting side of a fairly boring era.

Did you know? Jane Eyre has inspired dozens of films, TV adaptations and books. There have been sixteen feature film adaptations, including the latest with Mia Wasikowska and Judi Dench. Jean Rhys’s 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea reveals the backstory of Bertha Rochester, the madwoman in the attic of Thornfield Hall. Jasper Fforde’s hit Thursday Next series started with The Eyre Affair, in which Jane Eyre is kidnapped from the novel. As Thursday Next, the series’ heroine, works to return her to the classic work, she inadvertently changes the ending! And, of course, there’s a paranormal parody: Jane Slayre. Watch the trailer for the new Jane Eyre here.

Lord of the Flies – William Golding

Most people who work here hate this book (ed. note: I do!), but I love it. What better way to explore man’s wild side than through kids in the wild. This is why we can’t all just get along.

Did you know? This classic tale of survival and basic human conflict has inspired two films, one in 1963 and one in 1990, starring Balthazar Getty. Lord of the Flies has also found itself alongside Slaughterhouse-five and Native Boy on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books of the 90s. Learn more about banned and frequently challenged books at the ALA website.

Janet prefers Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence

A classic novel of sexual liberation. The subtext, though, is Lawrence’s belief that humans are good when not repressed by society. Quite the opposite view of Lord of the Flies!

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March 10, 2011

Bookbyte: A Red Herring Without Mustard

Red HerringFlavia de Luce is one of the most witty and memorable characters in fiction today. She hit the scene in 2009 in her debut novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Alan Bradley manages to make believable an eleven-year-old chemistry genius with passion for poison and a vocabulary beyond her years. A lesser author would make her precocious and cartoonish, but brought alive by Bradley’s words, Flavia looks out at you from the the pages, a real girl with wide eyes filled with curiosity.

Her latest adventure, A Red Herring Without Mustard, takes place in the same summer as both Pie and the impeccable follow-up mystery, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag. That’s a lot of murder in one season in the fictional 1950s English village of Bishop’s Lacey. Flavia runs the risk of becoming a pre-teen Jessica Fletcher if the bodies keep dropping at this rate.

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March 8, 2011

Bookbyte: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Curious IncidentMark Haddon’s debut novel centers around fifteen-year-old Christopher. Christopher lives with his dad. Christopher goes to school every day. Christopher is investigating the murder of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, who was impaled on the yard with a pitchfork. Christopher is autistic.

Getting inside Christopher’s head is a wild trip, and an exhausting one. He has very strict routines and rules” “Not liking yellow things or brown things and refusing to touch yellow things or brown things. Smashing things when I am angry or confused. Screaming when I am angry of confused.” He is unable to perceive emotions. Dialogs are strictly he said/she said affairs. Christopher is writing this book, so of course he doesn’t mention emotions: they’re foreign concepts to him. Haddon has crafted a strong, memorable voice for his unique protagonist.

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March 7, 2011

March Recommendations

For the month of March, Janet recommends drama, mystery, and romance!

A Thousand DaysA Thousand Days in Venice – Marlena de Blaisi

A memoir suffused with the beauty and mystery of Venice. A love story for grownups!

Did you know? Marlena de Blasi conducts private Italian tours twice per year. It’s hard to get a spot on one of these tours. Due to the popularity of de Blasi’s four memoirs — Venice, plus A Thousand Days in Tuscany, The Lady in the Palazzo, and That Summer in Cicily — she was inundated with requests from people who weren’t truly passionate about Italy and its culture. She took down her website and takes guests only by word of mouth.

Read more about de Blasi’s works on her Random House profile.

Cane RiverCane River – Lalita Tademy

Four generations of women draw strength and determination from their love of family. Our book club loved it!

Did you know? In June 2001, Oprah chose Cane River as her 44th book club selection. Tademy’s novel combines fact and fiction. She researched four generations of her slave-born ancestry to form the plot of the book. Learn more about Tademy and her historical novels at her website: The Book Cellar book club read Cane River in May 2010.

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March 2, 2011

March Recommendations

For the month of March, Chance recommends the following four books:

Moving Pictures – Terry Pratchett

Moving PicturesThe first Sir Terry book I read, and I was instantly hooked on the wildly imaginative Discworld series. Ankh-Morpork, the largest city on the Disc (a flat planet on the back of four elephants on a giant sea turtle swimming through space) gets Holy Wood fever! Grab a bag of banged grains (aka popcorn) and curl up with high fantasy humor more action packed than the latest clickie (film) blockbuster!

Did you know? Sir Terry’s latest book, I Shall Wear Midnight, the fourth book in the Tiffany Aching series, came out in September. Learn more about Pratchett’s incredible Discworld series at his website.

Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde

Lost in a Good BookSkip The Eyre Affair, Fforde’s uneven debut, and dive right into the second installment of the Thursday Next series. Fforde’s literary fantasy goes full-tilt here. The jokes fly faster than Great Expectations‘s Miss Havisham on a high-octane motorbike (although that’s in here too)! Fforde takes classic characters from Brit Lit and gives them a marvelous modern twist.

Did you know? The Thursday Next series currently has five books. Something Rotten is a personal favorite. The sixth volume in the series, One of Our Thursdays is Missing, hits U.S. shelves on March 8th. Learn more about Fforde’s fantastic series at his website.

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March 1, 2011

Book Club Round-up: Bel Canto

Bel CantoThe Book Cellar book club discussed Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto on February 9. Bel Canto won, among others, the PEN/Faulkner award in 2002, putting Patchett in the company of John Updike (The Early Stories 1953-1975), Michael Cunningham (The Hours) and Philip Roth (The Human Stain and Everyman). High honors. (Our book club has also discussion 2010 PEN bridesmaid Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Lacuna.)

Personally, I didn’t like the book. It took an Atlas-esque feat of strength to hold up my suspension of disbelief.  I caved about 1/3 of the way into the book. In an unnamed South American country, terrorists storm the mansion of its vice-president, taking dozens of hostages. The revolutionaries soon discover that that president isn’t even there. They lack a back-up plan and scramble to come up with ideas. As the terrorists and the hostages mingle over the next four months (really, the “crisis” lasts at least a third of a year), they all realize they like life better now. If only they could stay in this mansion forever!

Part of me bought into the fact that the terrorists had it better in the mansion. They came from the jungle. Most of them are teen soldiers. In the mansion, they have running water, food, basic comforts of home that the rich hostages took for granted. But the visiting dignitaries? Why are they so content with losing their freedom? Why aren’t they plotting to escape?

A book club member brought in some interesting information: Bel Canto is loosely based on real events. In 1996, the Japanese embassy (or, more specifically, the Ambassdorial residence)  in Peru was invaded by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. They took hostages for 126 days. At the end of the crisis, despite reports that many of the insurgents surrendered, all the revolutionaries were executed, and one hostage lost his life in the crossfire.

Click here for more information on the 1996 crisis.

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