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WHAT WE'RE READING

People often ask which authors we like to read, or what we're reading now, so here you'll find our list for this month. We're also working to include a rich collection of book reviews to help you navigate your way through your own reading. Check back often!

If a book here catches your attention, but you're just not ready to settle down with a new story, click the link to Amazon and add it to your cart anyway. It's a great way to remember the one you simply had to read next and still purchase the book in your own sweet time. 

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What we're reading now

Beth
Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Joyce

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Books We’ve ENJOYED

gods in Alabama  by Joshilyn Jackson  

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan  by Lisa See

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

Miriam The Medium by Rochelle Shapiro

The Kite Runner  by Kahled Hosseini

The Lady and the Unicorn  by Tracy Chevalier

Prep  by Curtis Sittenfeld

Tales of a Drama Queen  by Lee Nichols

The Secret Life of Bees  by Sue Monk Kidd

Books We Can't Wait to Read

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Glass Castle  by Jeanette Walls

 

Between, Georgia

by Joshilyn Jackson

The biological daughter of poor, scared teenager Hazel Crabtree, Nonny Frett was left at birth with the wealthy, respectable Frett clan—a secret that doesn't keep long in a rural Georgia town of 90 people. Growing up at the center of a Crabtree-Frett feud begun by her birth, Nonny is caught between her biological family and her adopted one, between contempt for her philandering husband and the comfort of marriage, between an apartment in Athens, Ga., and her childhood home, Between. When a Doberman belonging to Nonny's biological grandmother Ona Crabtree attacks Nonny's adopted mom, deaf and blind Stacia Frett, and Stacia's twin sister, Genny, the families' dormant "war" awakens. Though Jackson (Gods in Alabama) might cut a few corners plotwise, her strengths more than make up for it: plenty of Southern sass ("Don't call me again unless you are personally on fire") and rueful, charming confidences ("I wanted the divorce with all my heart. I did. Only I wasn't sure I wanted it tomorrow") make this a theatrical and well-paced Southern family drama.
Copyright ?Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

“From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later–the night before New Year’s Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion’s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.?/font>

The Year of Magical Thinking (Vintage International)

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The Woman at the Washington Zoo
Writings on Politics, Family and Fate

by Marjorie Williams

Washington, D.C., is a city ruled by insiders, and few writers have broken through the social and public politics that govern it as eloquently as Williams. This posthumous collection presents a series of remarkably well-observed and intelligent profiles of the great and minor figures who have made D.C. for the past two decades. Williams, a longtime writer for the Washington Post and Vanity Fair, has a fine eye for telling details—the license plates on a bureaucrat's car, the folds of satin in a dying socialite's dress—but it's more than just details that make Williams's profiles so engaging. Underlying each representation is Williams's ability to make her characters as complicated on the page as they are in real life. It's that same concern that governs the heartbreaking personal pieces in the last third of the book, which covers Williams's losing battle with cancer. Here she is on her impending death: "whatever happens to me now, I've earned the knowledge some people never gain, that my span is finite and I still have the chance to rise and rise to life's generosity." In these final pieces, Williams steps out from under the self-effacing veil that made her such a fine journalist and speaks of her own experiences. The result is a collection of writing that dissolves the boundaries between the personal and the political to arrive at an obvious but no less startling conclusion. ~Publishers Weekly

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The Eyre Affair

by Jasper Fforde

In Jasper Fforde's Great Britain, circa 1985, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Bront?s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde's ingenious fantasy-enhanced by a Web site that re-creates the world of the novel--unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix. ~Book Description

This is the first in the unbelievably creative and clever Thursday Next series. Everyone I know that has started this series is now seriously addicted! Can't wait!!  ~Beth

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The Glass Castle

by Jeanette Walls

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

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gods in Alabama

by Joshilyn Jackson

This book was fabulous! Great storyline, lots of unexpected twists and turns. The past and present are weaved together flawlessly and it was fun trying to put the pieces together myself before the author revealed them. I highly recommend it! ~Allison

When Arlene Fleet headed off to college in Chicago, she made three promises to God: She would never again lie, never fornicate outside of marriage, and never, ever go back to her tiny hometown of Possett, Alabama (the "fourth rack of Hell"). All God had to do in exchange was to make sure the body of high school quarterback Jim Beverly was never found. Ten years later, Arlene has kept her promises, but an old schoolmate has recently turned up asking questions. And now Arlene’s African American beau has given her a tough ultimatum: introduce him to her family, or he’s gone. As she prepares to confront guilt, discrimination, and a decade of deception, Arlene is about to discover just how far she will go to find redemption--and love. ~Book Description

You can't go wrong with an author who lists Harper Lee's
To Kill A Mockingbird as one of her biggest influences. 

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Light on Snow

by Anita Shreve

Two weeks after I finished with this book, and just couldn't seem to move on to anything else. I don' t know if this book found me at the exact right moment that I needed "a good cry" or if it simply became what I needed as I read it. I didn't want to betray the story left lingering in my head by beginning something new. 

The descriptions of a bitter New England winter are exquisite, but concise. She cuts to the chase and offers no apologies for stories that ring so true they are, at times, painful. Yet you would never accuse Light on Snow of being a tear-jerker. It is vulnerable and fragile and tenuous, but it never asks for your sympathy. It is human and perfect. Thank you yet again, Ms. Shreve, for living up to my highest expectations. ~Beth

Already taking its place alongside The Pilot's Wife and The Last Time They Met as one of Anita Shreve's most widely popular and bestselling novels, LIGHT ON SNOW recounts the aftermath of a startling discovery: a 12-year-old girl and her widowed father find an abandoned baby in the snow-filled woods near their home. Writing with all the emotional richness that has drawn millions of readers around the world to her fiction, Anita Shreve unfolds in this book a tender and surprising story about love and its consequences. ~ Book Description

New to paperback September 2005

Light On Snow by Anita Shreve

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Snow Flower and The Secret Fan

by Lisa See

This is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of female friendship. While it is at times painfully vivid, the poetic language is a joy to read. Our 80 year-old narrator shares with us the story of two lifetimes. This is one book that will not soon be forgotten. ~ Joyce 

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. ~Book Description

Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club, and Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha, rave about this book. 

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A Complicated Kindness

by Miriam Toews

Nomi’s your typical 16-year old girl except for one glaring difference: she’s Mennonite. Living with her father in a dull Mennonite village in rural Manitoba, she struggles to flourish and find independence outside the strict religion she was born into. Questioning her beliefs and outwardly rebelling, Nomi also tries to accept and understand why the two most important women in her life ?her mother and her sister ?suddenly left their lives and the stifling community they were a part of.

This is a very different story full of characters that were extremely well-rounded and executed. Nomi is a fabulous character and is so real that I could picture her in my head right down to the finest of details. Her father, Ray, is withdrawn and peculiar; their relationship survives on strange small talk and their main form of communication, handwritten notes to each other.

The tone of the book is very distinct and is so strong it almost became another character in itself. Toews didn’t use punctuation when people were speaking, which added to the “different?feel of the story. She did a wonderful job of projecting Nomi’s disdain for her religion and the people around her, as well as the bleak environment in which she is living. At times it seemed as though the story was dragging, yet I think it might have been a technique Toews used to further illustrate Nomi’s life. 

Although the dust jacket boasted the ending of the book as "a shattering conclusion", I had it figured out mid-way and wasn’t all that shocked. All-in-all, a very good read. ~Katherine

A Complicated Kindness

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Miriam the Medium

by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

This is an utterly charming first novel by an actual psychic and a gifted writer. While this was the first quick read I've enjoyed in quite a while, it may have been only been quick because I had such a hard time putting it down.

Miriam is a closet phone psychic in a posh upstate New York neighborhood. While she sees startling details of her clients' future, she can't seem to navigate her own life. Her typically self-involved teenage daughter is ashamed of her mother's gift and terrified her friends will somehow find out. Her once-adoring husband is saddled with a money pit pharmacy and struggling to get out of a cycle of debt. 

Between the comical clients and family tensions, Miriam struggles to make sense of her gift and relationships. Her gift to us a lovely novel reaching surprising depths of emotion about a very human woman learning to love and respect herself.  ~Beth

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The KITE RUNNER

by Khaled Hosseini

From the moment you read the first few pages you will be totally engaged in its characters. It's a complex story of love, friendship and betrayal. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride of emotions. One that will tug at your heart long after you close the book. A must read! ~Joyce

Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable, beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan , the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.  ~Book Description

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THE LADY AND THE UNICORN

by Tracy Chevalier

A must read for those of us who loved Chevalier's best-selling
Girl with a Pearl Earring, and its heartbreaking Victorian follow-up, Falling Angels. This time Chevalier weaves her magic into the the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, now in Paris's Cluny museum. An irresistibly seductive artist, Nicolas des Innocents has been captivated by his noble patron's daughter while designing tapestries for a great hall. A strict medieval society keeps their passions at bay, and Nicolas pours himself into the tapestries as a way to express his love. Will duty and society prevail over love? 

Chevalier's richly detailed stories, lyrical style  and exquisite endings are reading's equivalent to the masterful brushstrokes that bring light and shadow to the greatest works of art. ~Beth

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PREP

by Curtis Sittenfeld

 Lee Fiora, the heroine of Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut novel, “Prep,? gets hooked on the idea of boarding school via the glossy brochures filled with attractive kids in beautiful sweaters. The daughter of a South Bend, Ind., mattress salesman, Lee proves smart enough to get in, but never rich enough, pretty enough or smooth enough to truly succeed at the Ault School.

“Prep? chronicles Lee’s four years at the school, which she slinks through in a constant funk of loneliness and insecurity. Surrounded by brilliant classmates with uber-preppy names (Gates, Cross, Aspeth) and billionaire parents, she finds herself losing the spark that had marked her as a star at home. By the end of senior year, she has distinguished herself in just a few humiliating ways.  

It’s frustrating to spend 400-plus pages with a protagonist who never changes, yet Sittenfeld’s dour realism is refreshing in its own way. A more idealistic writer would surely have buffed Lee’s rough surfaces, lifted her from her funk. You won’t necessarily like Lee Fiora, but anyone who’s ever suffered from the sidelines will like “Prep.?~Eileen

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THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES

by Sue Monk Kidd

This is a story of relationships: the relationships that develop between the characters as well as the co-relation between bees ?namely queen bees ?and mothers in general. The underlying theme of The Secret Life of Bees was mothering and motherhood, while the story detailed the main character’s search, and ultimate struggle, to find out and accept the truth behind her mother’s death.

In a story that was based upon people who were, on the surface, “black? and “white? the characters were very colorful ?they grew together in ways that didn’t seem possible in the beginning. The backdrop of the story -- set in southern America during a time of deeply rooted racial tension ?added to the strong sense of the strength of relationships and what truly is important in life. Monk Kidd does an excellent job of revealing the poignant, compelling story of a young girl who starts off searching for the truth behind her mother’s mysterious death, and ends up learning powerful lessons about life and herself.  ~Katherine

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TALES OF A DRAMA QUEEN

by Lee Nichols

I really didn’t want to like this book. After reading the blurb on the back describing main character Elle Medina’s current pathetic life status, I figured I wouldn’t be able to relate to her at all. Let’s see?b>Me: Always dressed in casual lounge clothes, non-makeup wearing stay-at-home-mom who can navigate the aisles of the local Wal*Mart in less than ten minutes flat. Elle: Has never set foot in the real world, but instead has spent years living vicariously through her ex-fianc?’s attorney title (and paycheck) until his recent departure from their relationship. Is fashion conscious and stylish, with a keen knowledge of all things Prada and ridiculously expensive.

Yeah, right. I’ll relate to her.

Shocker: I found myself actually liking this spoiled character, rooting for her to find and actually hold down a job and to succeed in the game of love. Nichols paints a fabulous character in our heroine Elle; when I closed my eyes I could picture her as clearly as if she was a personal friend. The narrative is hilarious -- I was literally in tears laughing at parts ?especially when Elle adopts Scab, her "hairless jowly lizard-rat dog??a turning point in her life. Grab this book if you’re looking for a funny, feel-good-in-the-end read. ~Katherine

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