Friday, May 28, 2010

Creating a Book Club

Because I seem to have an abundance of time on my hands, or perhaps because there aren't enough books on my ToBeRead  list, I have decided to help a friend start a book club.  She used to go to my other book club, but due to her very full schedule stopped going years ago.  Since that time she has often mentioned that she'd thought about starting a new book club.  In the last year, every time I've seen her I've asked if she was ready to get it going.  Finally I'd bugged her enough, it seems--we got our new book club off the ground this spring.

Organization:  We wanted to have all the members be able to pick books if they wished, with no rules delineating what type of books we would or wouldn't read.  We are open to anything!  The point is to get people reading, get people branching out in what they are reading, and get people together to talk about what they are reading.  We decided to meet once a month (or thereabouts, depending on schedules) to discuss the book read that month.  In order to create a low pressure meeting, we will be rather unstructured in our discussions...while discussing the different parts of the book that caught our interest, we will not have studied or formal discussion questions.  As a way to break up the monthly monotony, we'd like to incorporate theme months every now and again such as junior fiction month, or poetry focus.  We want it to be fun.

While a group of 5-7 seems to be ideal for well balanced discussion, we have started out with more people than that, expecting that at some point the group will shrink and settle into a workable size.  As our very first book, we have chosen Random Harvest by James Hilton.  It was published in 1941, and was immediately made into a movie with Greer Garson.  As a token of appreciation and great things to come, I made bookmarks for each of the girls coming to the book club, and bundled them up with a small notebook, bookmark pen, and--of course--M&Ms.  Who doesn't like M&Ms?  I will be writing a review of Random Harvest shortly, and our monthly books thereafter.  Stay tuned!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Lacuna

The Lacuna: A NovelTitle: The Lacuna
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Pages: 528
Published: 2009 Harper
Read For: Monday Night Book Club
Chosen by: Shelley, April-May 2010
My Rating: 4.75 stars (out of 5)

Years ago I read The Poisonwood Bible with my book club and loved it, and although that is the only book of Barbara Kingsolver's that I'd read until this year, I was excited when her new novel was chosen for our April/May book. Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing writer. Even when the summary of the book doesn't sound enticing to me, even when I'm not hooked until halfway through the book, even when the characters aren't people I can identify with, I am won over by the time the novel is through.

It may start out with a simple statement that strikes my fancy: (from p. 17) His mother had let him carry two valises: one for books, one for clothes. The clothes were a waste, outgrown instantly. He should have filled both with books.

It may be the way words are put together that catch my notice: (from p. 53) Luckily the Spaniards wrote buckets about the Azteca civilization before they blew it to buttons and used its stones for their churches.

It may be a statement one of the characters makes that makes me stop and reflect: (from p. 197) A story is like a painting, Soli. It doesn't have to look like what you see out the window.

It may be the theme that starts with the title and is carried throughout the story: (from p. 218) The most important thing about a person is always the thing you don't know.

The Lacuna is the story of Harrison Shepherd, who was born in America to an American father and moved to Mexico with his Mexican mother, and is trying to find his place in the world.  Like any person you meet, you get to know Harrison a little at a time, in bits and pieces.  With him you get to meet Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and through them Lev Trotsky--the leader of the Bolshevik rebellion--and experience the McCarthy hearings.  Harrison is not entirely Mexican, nor entirely American.  He is understood by neither his mother nor his father, yet he finds a place to belong, a way to survive regardless of where he is.

While the book isn't gripping until around the midpoint (for me) it isn't boring or difficult to read either.  It is a book to be read for its language and message, for the journey the characters make and the palpable descriptions.  Not to be read in a hurry, but when you can spend some time seeing the colors and smelling the smells that will fill the room and linger on in your mind if you give them the chance.

A lovely bit from p. 393:
In the afternoon when the sun lights the stucco buildings across the street, its possible to count a dozen different colors of paint, all fading together on the highest parts of the wall: yellow, ochre, brick, blood, cobalt, turquoise.  The national color of Mexico.  And the scent of Mexico is a similar blend: jasmine, dog piss, cilantro, lime.  Mexico admits you through an arched stone orifice into the tree-filled courtyard of its heart, where a dog pisses against a wall and a waiter hustles through a curtain of jasmine to bring a bowl of tortilla soup, steaming with cilantro and lime.  Cats stalk lizards among the clay pots around the fountain, doves settle into the flowering vines and coo their prayers, thankful for the existence of lizards.  The potted plants silently exhale, outgrowing their clay pots.  Like Mexico's children they stand pinched and patient in last year's too-small shoes.  The pebble thrown into the canyon bumps and tumbles downhill.

Friday, May 7, 2010

For the Record: April 2010:

Daughter of Fortune: A Novel (P.S.)Only one of the books I read this month (Daughter of Fortune) will count towards my goal of reading more books-that-have-been-on-my-bookshelf-forever.  Not only that, but I stopped in Borders on a whim and accidentally came home with 5 more books from their super-sale.  I'm falling behind!  Need to read more, buy less! (right.  like that's going to happen.)  Okay, on with it...this is what I finished reading in April:

29. The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary (3 stars) Simple and sweet, this book tells the fun story of a mouse and a boy that share a love for a motorcycle. It's written simply enough for a child to read, but is fun to read aloud as well. There were some things that definitely dated the book, but nothing that made it unapproachable. It rather lent to it's charm.

30. Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende (3 stars)  This story took place mostly in Chile and California around the time of the Gold Rush, which is one of the main reasons I held onto this book, intending to read it, for so long.  I enjoy Gold Rush history, but this book moved a little too slowly for me.  The writing was fluid, but the pace a little slow, and the topic focused a little too much on whorehouses for my taste.  The book wasn't bad by any means, but it never really grabbed me or spoke to me.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Paperback Boxed Set (Books 1-3)31. The Lightening Thief, Rick Riordan (4 stars) #1 in the Percy Jackson series
32. The Sea of Monsters, Rick Riordan (3 stars) #2 in the Percy Jackson series
33. The Titan's Curse, Rick Riordan (3 stars) #3 in the Percy Jackson series

The Percy Jackson series consists of 5 books which take a unique, action packed, and oftentimes humorous look at what it would be like if the mythology of the Greek Gods were actually real, not mythological.  They are quick and fun to read; I'll be reading the last two soon, I'm sure.

34. Precious Bane, Mary Webb (4 stars)  Recommended by a fellow book lover on the Sonlight forums, and received as a Christmas gift from a friend, I found this to be an interesting jaunt off the beaten path.  It was written in the 1920s, and set in the mid 19th century Great Britain (Wales, I think), it is full of tradition, superstition, culture and lyrical writing.  It is definitely a book to be read and reread, both for its language and its look on life.

35. Time Among the Dead, Thomas Rayfiel (3 stars)  A LibraryThing Early Reviewer book, you can see my full review here.

Detectives in Togas36. Detectives in Togas, Henry Winterfield (4 stars) A fun, rollicking adventure mystery taking place in Ancient Rome.  Fun to read aloud.

37. Mystery of the Roman Ransom, Henry Winterfield (3.5 stars) Sequel to Detectives in Togas, perhaps not quite as suspenseful but just as much fun.

38. Catching Their Talk in a Box, Betty M. Hockett (3 stars) A missionary story from Sonlight Core 2, this is a simple book about the initial attempts to record the bible in different languages.

39. And the Word Came with Power, Joanne Shetler (4 stars)  What makes this missionary story so great is how it makes obvious how real the spiritual world is, and shares the story of an amazing missionary while also showing that not everyone is called to be an overseas missionary.  I like the emphasis on becoming more like Christ, in whichever way he would have you do so, rather than emphasizing being a missionary.