Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February 2011

February 2011


The following features and discussion guides began running on ReadingGroupGuides.com on Wednesday, February 9th.

The titles below are also mentioned in the ReadingGroupGuides.com Newsletter Opener, which can be read here:
-Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum
-The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould
-Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Luncheon at the Boating Party and Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
-Exposure by Therese Fowler
-French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
-The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
-Minding Ben by Victoria Brown
-The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
-South of Superior by Ellen Airgood
-These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
-Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline
-The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
-Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton
-The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Win a Copy of UNDER THE MERCY TREES by Heather Newton for Your Group
We are celebrating the release of Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton --- a beautifully rendered, heartbreaking first novel that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in Southern fiction --- with a special contest. 15 readers will have the opportunity to each win one copy of the book, which is in stores now, for their group. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, March 2nd at noon ET.

More about Under the Mercy Trees:
Thirty years ago, Martin Owenby came to New York City with dreams of becoming a writer. Now his existence revolves around cheap Scotch and weekend flings with equally damaged men. When he learns that his older brother, Leon, has gone missing, he must return to the Owenby farm in Solace Fork, North Carolina, to assist in the search. But that means facing a past filled with regrets, the family that never understood him, the girl whose heart he broke, and the best friend who has faithfully kept the home fires burning. As the mystery surrounding Leon's disappearance deepens, so too does the weight of decades-long unresolved differences and unspoken feelings --- forcing Martin to deal with the hardest lessons about home, duty and love.

Click here to read all the contest details.
Click here for the reading group guide.


Win an Advance Copy of SOUTH OF SUPERIOR by Ellen Airgood for Your Group
We are celebrating the forthcoming release of South of Superior by Ellen Airgood --- a debut novel full of heart, in which love, friendship and charity teach a young woman to live a bigger life  --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to each win one advance copy of the book, which will be in stores June 9th, for their group. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, March 2nd at noon ET.

More about South of Superior:
When Madeline Stone walks away from her Chicago life and moves 500 miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she isn’t prepared for how much her life will change. Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Artubus, two octogenarian sisters --- one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As she is drawn into the dramas of the small, tight-knit town, Madeline learns that it’s a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but where friendship, community and compassion run deeper.

Click here to read all the contest details.
Click here for the reading group guide.


New and Recommended - Fiction

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
Now Available in Paperback:
In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it. Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can't touch them. But both Iris and Frankie know better. The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds --- one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve --- and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so.

Click here for the reading group guide.

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
When Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces the whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It's Brynn --- shy, quiet Brynn --- who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her. But then Allison is released, and is more determined than ever to speak with her sister. Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.

Click here for the reading group guide.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline
Now Available in Paperback:
Bennie Rosato looks exactly like her identical twin, Alice Connelly, but the darkness in Alice’s soul makes them two very different women. Or at least that’s what Bennie believes --- until she finds herself buried alive at the hands of her twin. Meanwhile, Alice takes over Bennie’s life, impersonating her at work and even seducing her boyfriend in order to escape the deadly mess she has made of her own life. But Alice underestimates Bennie and the evil she has unleashed in her twin’s psyche. Soon Bennie, in her determination to stay alive long enough to exact revenge, must face the twisted truth that she is more like Alice than she could have ever imagined. And by the novel’s shocking conclusion, Bennie finds herself engaged in a war she cannot win --- with herself.

Click here for the reading group guide.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Now Available in Paperback:
Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of 48 years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband’s mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine’s playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her capricious mother and sister

Click here for the reading group guide.

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
The new novel from the bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It takes us on an unforgettable journey into first love, and --- with the emotional intensity and penetrating wit that has made her beloved among readers all over the world --- reminds us of how the ardor of our youth can ignite our adult lives. Funny, moving, full of beautiful observations about the awakenings of youth and middle age, Allison Pearson’s long-awaited new novel will speak across generations to mothers and daughters and women of all ages.

Click here for the reading group guide.

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French
This lively, intricately plotted, laugh-out-loud funny, and surprisingly touching family drama combines the wit of Carl Hiaasen with the southern charm of Jill McCorkle. Seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent as part of a secret government study that had horrible consequences. Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddball characters and written with the flair of a native Floridian, this dark comedy does not disappoint.

Click here for the reading group guide.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
From the celebrated 29-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves comes a blazingly original debut novel that takes us back to the swamps of the Florida Everglades, and introduces us to Ava Bigtree, an unforgettable young heroine. The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly No. 1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family’s struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.

Click here for the reading group guide.

Caribou Island by David Vann
On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by 30 years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary's old dream, they're hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to build the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place. Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams, and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction.

Click here for the reading group guide.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Now Available in Paperback:
Situated in Ohio, a free territory before the Civil War, Tawawa House is an idyllic retreat for Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their enslaved black mistresses. Lizzie, Reenie and Sweet are regulars at the resort, building strong friendships over the years. But when Mawu, as fearless as she is assured, comes along and starts talking of running away, things change. To run is to leave everything behind, and for some it also means escaping from the emotional and psychological bonds that bind them to their masters. An engaging, page-turning and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.

Click here for the reading group guide.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
Raised by her doting father, Yakob, a carpet merchant, and her stern, resentful stepmother, Ruxandra, Eleonora spends her early years daydreaming and doing housework --- until the moment she teaches herself to read, and her father recognizes that she is an extraordinarily gifted child, a prodigy. When Yakob sets off by boat for Stamboul on business, eight-year-old Eleonora, unable to bear the separation, stows away in one of his trunks. On the shores of the Bosporus, in the house of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey, a new life awaits. Books, backgammon, beautiful dresses and shoes, markets swarming with color and life --- the imperial capital overflows with elegance, and mystery. The Oracle of Stamboul is a marvelously evocative, magical historical novel that will transport readers to another time and place --- romantic, exotic, yet remarkably similar to our own.

Click here for the reading group guide.

When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt
"If you leave Opi, you'll die with strangers," Irma Vitale's mother always warned. Even after her beloved mother's passing, 20-year-old Irma longs to stay in her Abruzzo mountain village, plying her needle. But too poor and plain to marry and subject to growing danger in her own home, she risks rough passage to America and workhouse servitude to achieve her dream of making dresses for gentlewomen. In the raw immigrant quarters and with the help of an entrepreneurial Irish serving girl, ribbon-decked Polish ragman and austere Alsatian dressmaker, Irma begins to stitch together a new life…until her peace and self are shattered in the charred remains of the Great Chicago Fire.

Click here for the reading group guide.

Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald
Knowing she could never be happy in Iran, Tamila Soroush took her mother's advice to “Go and wake up your luck” and joined her sister in the United States. Now, after a spur-of-the-moment exchange of “I do”s with her true love, Ike Hanson, Tami is eager to start her new life. But not everyone is pleased with their marriage, and Tami's happily-ever-after is no sure thing. With an interview with Immigration looming, Tami wonders if she's got the right stuff when it comes to love, American-style. Maybe her luck is running out. Or maybe she'll stand up for herself and claim her American dream.

Click here for the reading group guide.


New and Recommended - Nonfiction

It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine: A Memoir by Wade Rouse

“How come the only thing my family tree ever grows is nuts?” Wade Rouse attempts to answer that question in his blisteringly funny new memoir by looking at the yearly celebrations that unite us all and bring out the very best and worst in our nearest and dearest. Whether Wade dates a mime on his birthday to overcome his phobia of clowns or outruns a chubchasing boss on Secretary’s Day, he captures our holidays with his trademark self-deprecating humor and acerbic wit. He paints a funny, sad, poignant and outlandish portrait of an all-too-typical family that will have you appreciating --- or bemoaning --- your own and shrieking in laughter.


Click here for the reading group guide.

Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me in and Set Me Free by Susan Richards
One day, at the age of 31, Susan Richards realized that she was an alcoholic. She wrote it down in her journal, struck by the fact that it had taken nine years of waking up hung-over to name her illness. What had changed? This is a memoir about the power of animals to carry us through the toughest times of our lives --- about the importance of constancy, the beauty of quiet, steadfast love, the way loving a good (and sometimes bad!) animal can keep you going. It’s a wonderful story for Susan’s (and Georgia’s) fans, and for anyone who has ever loved an animal enough to keep on living.

Click here for the reading group guide.


For Christian Readers

The Amish Midwife: The Women of Lancaster County, Book 1 by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould: A dusty carved box containing two locks of hair and a century-old letter regarding property in Switzerland, and a burning desire to learn about her biological family, lead nurse-midwife Lexie Jaeger from her home in Oregon to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country.

Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze: A young mother struggles for custody of her child against her abusive ex-husband, whose connections to organized crime are worrisome to all involved in the case.

A Season of Miracles by Rusty Whitener: Little League teammates form an unlikely bond despite their different backgrounds during their quest for the league championship in 1970s suburbia.

Registered Book Club Promotions

For February we have three very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The Paris Wife (Link to guide) by Paula McLain, Amaryllis in Blueberry (Link to guide) by Christina Meldrum, and The Amish Midwife (Link to guide) by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould. Groups who have registered with us by Tuesday, February 15th have the chance to win an author chat and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here (http://www.readinggroupguides.com/groupreg/) to register.

Click here for details.


Feature

2010 "Best of" Lists
Here are our annual lists of our 25 New Favorite, 20 Ongoing Favorite and 20 Enduring Favorite book titles for book club discussions for 2010, gathered by the editors of ReadingGroupGuides.com. See if your group agrees with our choices, and make your own list of favorites!

-Click here for our New Favorites.
-Click here for our Ongoing Favorites.
-Click here for our Enduring Favorites.


What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group

Book Group Spotlight


New Guides

Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum: In the stirring tradition of The Secret Life of Bees, Amaryllis in Blueberry explores the complexity of human relationships set against an unforgettable African backdrop.

The Amish Midwife: The Women of Lancaster County, Book 1 by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould: A dusty carved box containing two locks of hair and a century-old letter regarding property in Switzerland, and a burning desire to learn about her biological family, lead nurse-midwife Lexie Jaeger from her home in Oregon to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country.

Caribou Island by David Vann: Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams, and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction.

Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure by Julian Smith: This is the unforgettable account of twin adventures, as Julian Smith beautifully interweaves his own contemporary journey with famed explorer Ewart Grogan’s larger-than-life tale of charging elephants, cannibal attacks, deadly jungles, and romantic triumph.

Deadly Ties by Vicki Hinze: A young mother struggles for custody of her child against her abusive ex-husband, whose connections to organized crime are worrisome to all involved in the case.

Dreaming in English by Laura Fitzgerald: Knowing she could never be happy in Iran, Tamila Soroush took her mother's advice to "Go and wake up your luck" and joins her sister in the United States in this sequel to Veil of Roses.

Drinking Closer to Home by Jessica Anya Blau: From the critically-acclaimed author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties comes a new novel of California, growing up, and learning to love your insane family.
Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor: Ghost Light is a tour de force of emotion about a playwright and his muse from the widely acclaimed and bestselling author of Star of the Sea.

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson: This new novel from the bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It takes us on an unforgettable journey into first love, and --- with the emotional intensity and penetrating wit that have made her beloved among readers all over the world --- reminds us of how the ardor of our youth can ignite our adult lives.

It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays, and 50 Boxes of Wine: A Memoir by Wade Rouse: In It’s All Relative, Wade Rouse paints a funny, sad, poignant and outlandish portrait of an all-too-typical family that will have you appreciating --- or bemoaning --- your own and shrieking in laughter.

Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude by Emily White: Interweaving her personal story with cutting-edge scientific research --- as well as incredibly moving accounts offered by numerous lonely men and women --- Emily White provides a deep and thorough portrait of this increasingly common but too often ignored affliction.

Moonface: A True Romance by Angela Balcita: Expanded from Angela Balcita's unforgettable "Modern Love" column in the New York Times, Moonface will make readers laugh, cry and, above all, appreciate the importance of unconditional love.

The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas: An elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel set in a mystical, exotic world, in which a gifted young girl charms a sultan and changes the course of an empire's history.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: Set during the period of Ernest Hemingway's most prolific time, The Paris Wife brilliantly captures the voice and heart of Hadley Hemingway as she struggles with her roles as a woman --- wife, lover, muse, friend, and mother --- and tries to find her place in the intoxicating and tumultuous world of Paris in the 1920s.

The Revenge of Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French: Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddball characters and written with the flair of a native Floridian, this dark comedy does not disappoint.
Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me in and Set Me Free by Susan Richards: This is a memoir about the power of animals to carry us through the toughest times of our lives --- about the importance of constancy, the beauty of quiet, steadfast love, the way loving a good (and sometimes bad!) animal can keep you going.

A Season of Miracles by Rusty Whitener: Little League teammates form an unlikely bond despite their different backgrounds during their quest for the league championship in 1970s suburbia.

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdich: In brilliantly controlled prose, Shadow Tag fearlessly explores the complex nature of love, the fluid boundaries of identity, and one family’s struggle for survival and redemption.

South of Superior by Ellen Airgood: A debut novel full of heart that shows there is a deep reward in caring for others, that one who is poor in the pocket can be rich in other ways, and that happiness often comes from the smallest gestures.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family’s struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf: A young woman tries to rebuild her life upon her release from prison, but discovers a little boy may exonerate her fully from the crimes she was convicted for.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline: In this heart-pounding thriller, after being buried alive by her twin sister, Bennie Rosato is determined to exact revenge.

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton: The poignant and unforgettable story of a man forced to face his troubled past when he returns to his small hometown in the mountains of North Carolina following the disappearance of his brother.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez: An engaging, page-turning, and wholly original novel, Wench explores, with an unflinching eye, the moral complexities of slavery.
When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt: A rich historic tale that chronicles the tumultuous life journey of a young immigrant seamstress, as she travels from her isolated Italian mountain village through the dark corners of late 19th-century America.

Wrecker by Summer Wood: Set amid the giant trees of northern California’s magical Lost Coast, Wrecker is the story of a nearly broken boy who unexpectedly finds a family.


Oprah's Book Club Selection
Click here to read the February 2011 edition of the ReadingGroupGuides.com newsletter.
Click here to visit the ReadingGroupGuides.com homepage.

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