Monday, December 22, 2008

Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata

A mother, Japan, a mother-in-law, a demanding husband, a painter. All intriguing concepts in Losing Kei by Suzanne Kamata.

A young mother fights impossible odds to be reunited with her child in this acutely insightful first novel about an inter-cultural marriage gone terribly wrong.

Jill Parker is an American painter living in Japan. Far from the trendy gaijin neighborhoods of downtown Tokyo, she’s settled in a remote seaside village where she makes ends meet as a bar hostess. Her luck changes when she meets Yusuke, a savvy and sensitive art gallery owner who believes in her talent. But their love affair, and subsequent marriage, is doomed to domestic hell, for Yusuke is the chonan, the eldest son, who assumes the role of rigid patriarch in his traditional family while Jill’s duty is that of servile Japanese wife. A daily battle of wills ensues as Jill resists instruction from Yusuke's mother in the proper womanly arts and even the long anticipated birth of a son, Kei, fails to unite them. Divorce is the only way out but in Japan a foreigner has no rights to custody and Jill must choose between freedom and abandoning her child.

Told with tenderness, humor, and an insider’s knowledge of Japanese family life Losing Kei is the debut novel of an exceptional expatriate voice. -- Leapfrog Press

Read Julie P.'s review at Booking Mama.

Published: January, 2008
Author's first novel
Pages: 216
Author's website:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo

I enjoy the books S.Krishna recommends at S.Krishna's Books. She reviewed another one that I think would make for an interesting book club read and discussion.

Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo is summarized below:
From the author of the 2007 Orange Prize finalist A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers comes a wholly original and thoroughly captivating coming-of-age story that follows a bright, impassioned young woman as she rushes headlong into the maelstrom of a rapidly changing Beijing to chase her dreams.

Twenty-one year old Fenfang Wang has traveled one thousand eight hundred miles to seek her fortune in contemporary urban Beijing, and has no desire to return to the drudgery of the sweet potato fields back home. However, Fenfang is ill-prepared for what greets her: a Communist regime that has outworn its welcome, a city under rampant destruction and slap-dash development, and a sexist attitude seemingly more in keeping with her peasant upbringing than the country’s progressive capital. Yet Fenfang is determined to live a modern life. With courage and purpose, she forges ahead, and soon lands a job as a film extra. While playing roles like woman-walking-over-the bridge and waitress-wiping-a-table help her eke out a meager living, Fenfang comes under the spell of two unsuitable young men, keeps her cupboard stocked with UFO noodles, and after mastering the fever and tumult of the city, ultimately finds her true independence in the one place she never expected.

At once wry and moving, Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth gives us a clear-eyed glimpse into the precarious and fragile state of China’s new identity and asserts Xiaolu Guo as her generation’s voice of modern China.

Read S. Krishna's review here and then add to your book club's list!

Published: August, 2008
Pages: 176
Author's website:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Going Down South by Bonnie J. Glover

Summary: From the author of The Middle Sister comes a heartwarming tale of second chances and the unparalleled love between mothers and daughters.

When fifteen-year-old Olivia Jean finds herself in the “family way,” her mother, Daisy, who has never been very maternal, springs into action. Daisy decides that Olivia Jean can’t stay in New York and whisks her away to her grandmother’s farm in Alabama to have the baby–even though Daisy and her mother, Birdie, have been estranged for years. When they arrive, Birdie lays down the law: Sure, her granddaughter can stay, but Daisy will have to stay as well. Though Daisy is furious, she has no choice.

Now, under one little roof in the 1960s Deep South, three generations of spirited, proud women are forced to live together. One by one, they begin to lose their inhibitions and share their secrets. And as long-guarded truths emerge, a baby is born–a child with the power to turn these virtual strangers into a real, honest-to-goodness family. -- Ballantine

Check out Booking Mama's review of this lovely tale, Going Down South! You can then check out Dawn's review at She is too fond of books.

Published: July, 2008
Pages: 272
Author's website:
Reader's guide: Random House

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but maybe I need to rethink this? Julie P. at Booking Mama gave a great review of The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. Read it here. I usually love Julie's choices so am thinking I need to reconsider my stance against historical fiction.

I know there have been lots of other bloggers that have loved this book too. I will search them out and add the links.
Lisa at Books on the Brain
Amy at The Friendly Book Nook
Shana at Literarily

Hardcover: July, 2008 (new publisher)
Pages: 384
Author's website:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Professor's Wives Club by Joanne Rendell

"THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB would make a great book for a lot of book clubs, especially if yours is like mine and enjoys women's fiction... I found THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB to be a fun, light read; and I recommend it to those readers who enjoy books about women and relationships. "

The above is a direct quote from Julie on Booking Mama. She read The Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell and enjoyed it.

Product Description:
A debut novel about the intertwining lives of college faculty wives.

Nestled among Manhattan University’s faculty housing, there is a garden where four women will meet—each with a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core.

With its maple trees, iron gate, and fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan U’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah much needed refuge from their problems. But as Mary’s husband, the power-hungry dean, plans to demolish their beloved garden, these four women will discover a surprising secret about a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript—and realize they must find the courage to stand up for their passions, dreams, and desires.

Published: September, 2008
Pages: 352
Series: None
Author's website:
Reader's guide: Questions for bookclubs

An additional review can be found at Redlady's Reading Room.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagan

A mystery/thriller that is also a great book club book! I was so excited to read Booking Mama's review of Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagan. This book sounds like a great match to many book clubs (and to me!) and is an award winner as well!

It was the summer on Vliet Street when we all started locking our doors...

Sally O'Malley made a promise to her daddy before he died. She swore she'd look after her sister, Troo. Keep her safe. But like her Granny always said-actions speak louder than words. Now, during the summer of 1959, the girls' mother is hospitalized, their stepfather has abandoned them for a six pack, and their big sister, Nell, is too busy making out with her boyfriend to notice that Sally and Troo are on the Loose. And so is a murderer and molester.

Highly imaginative Sally is pretty sure of two things. Who the killer is. And that she's next on his list. Now she has no choice but to protect herself and Troo as best she can, relying on her own courage and the kindness of her neighbors. -- NAL/Penguin

Read Julie's, of Booking Mama, review here. It includes more information about the book and a short excerpt. She links to an interview with the author.

Julie's book club was able to have a chat with author Lesley Kagan. She will be posting more on that chat.

Published: May, 2007
Pages: 336
Series: None
Author's website:

Friday, September 5, 2008

The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta

Why does someone commit suicide? Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading read an interesting book about just that - The River, By Moonlight by Camille Marchetta. It explores the topic from the view point of the people around the person who committed suicide. Click here to see Trish's great review.

Summary from Amazon:
In 1917, the United States was on the brink of entering World War I, and art was moving away from Impressionism toward a more modern view. Meanwhile, Lily Canning, the daughter of a well-to-do family and an artist on the verge of fame, seems to have everything going for her--good looks, a loving family, wealth and talent. Despite appearances, however, Lily is supremely unhappy, a fact not unnoticed by her friends and family. Nevertheless, when her widowed mother receives a call revealing that Lily has jumped into the Hudson River and died, everyone is shocked. She had seemed happier since she left her husband and was anticipating her first art opening at a New York gallery. Suicide seems unfathomable. As her loved ones speculate about Lily's last hours, Marchetta slowly reveals the heroine in layers through the narration of those closest to her, such as her best friend, her cousins and her estranged husband. Each character's memories of Lily are interrupted by daily minutia and woven together with feelings about their own lives, as well as fears about the impending war and the morality of Lily's last act, mirroring the same realistic style in which Lily painted. Eventually, Lily herself reveals the truth behind her death. There is nothing particularly surprising about the ending and no fancy plot devices. Marchetta's prose is elegant in its simplicity, its rhythm gently carrying the reader forward like the Hudson River that figures so prominently throughout the story.

Published: August, 2007
Pages: 376
Series: None
Authors website:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Absolute Scandal by Penny Vincenzi

This one sounds like an interesting book that would cause a little bit of uncomfortable-ness (is that even a word?) and would make a great discussion!

Summary of An Absolute Scandal from Amazon:
Britain's bestselling Vincenzi (Sheer Abandon, etc.) sets this doggedly optimistic epic at the sunset of Thatcherism, and the bleak economic landscape proves fertile territory for a saga of families whose futures and fortunes become entwined in a court battle with the prestigious London insurer, Lloyds. There's Elizabeth, wife and mother of three with a Very Big Job in advertising; her charming husband, Simon, a banker with an eye for the ladies; posh Lucinda, who falls for working-class Blue and then risks everything to save her ex's fortune; Debbie's frustrated by her insensitive husband, Richard, afraid of her formidable mother-in-law and devoted to her three kids; and reporter Joel, who helps bring a Lloyds scandal to light and falls in love with one of its victims. Vincenzi deftly imbues the Greed Decade with all the twisty turns of an overheated soap—couples trapped by boredom, wives tortured by infidelity, singles hamstrung by convention, children buffeted by circumstance. The general stiff-upper-lipped attitude may sound tinny to American ears (even the Yankees sound like Brits-in-training), but this chickensian drama delivers all the goods required for a sizzling summer read.

For a great review, check out Melissa's guest review at Booking Mama. Thanks to Julie P. at Booking Mama for bringing us this review.

Published: June, 2008
Pages: 592
Series: None
Authors website:
Review Questions: Random House

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

When I read Susan's, of West of Mars, review of The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff, I just knew my book club needs to read this. And so does yours! Be sure to read what Susan has to say about it here.

You can also read a mother daughter reviews of this book at Ace and Hoser Block. Click here for Dana's review and here for Lauren's.

Published: March 2007
Pages: 400
Series: Another character is explored in The Diplomat's Wife (May 2008)
Author's website:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A promise to Remember by Kathryn Cushman

The review by Melissa at 5 Minutes for Books is quite intriguing. She didn't say it would be a good book club book but I can envision it being a very interesting discussion.

Published: October, 2007
Pages: 320
Discussion Guide: Here

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friend or Frenemy by Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler

Interesting non-fiction. We all have friends. We all have folks who we think of friends that are really not our friends - they drag us down and keep us from being the best we can be. These folks are frenemies.

Friend or Frenemy by Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler would be a good discussion in a book club. Will people actually admit to having a frenemy? Or being one?

See Book Club Girl's take on the book in relation to the women's gymnastic team at the Olympics!

Published: August, 2008
Pages: 256
Author's website:

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

Montana 1948 sounds like an interesting book based on the review by Trish at Hey Lady Whatcha' Reading? Click on this link to read her review. Then click on this link to read a review from Jessica - another member of the same book club!

Published: September, 1993
Pages: 175
Series: None
Author's website: Larry Watson
FAQ on the book: Here

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I just read a great review of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Lisa at Books on the Brain and her book club read and discussed this book. They even got to talk to the author via phone. Here's the link to her thoughts and their discussion.

Published: August, 2007
Pages: 384
Series: None
Website: Loving Frank .

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

The description of this book, Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly, reminds me of Fifty Acres and a Poodle by Jeanne Marie Laskas which LOLAs read a number of years ago and just loved. There were so many things to discuss about the author's life and choices. And lots of discussion about what we would choose in similar circumstances. And the laughing! (We also read the sequel - The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a family and enjoyed it just as much!)

Anyway, this look like another good read. It's already a big hit in Great Britain and is now being published here. Thanks to Book Club Girl for the review - click here to see what she has to say and see a trailer for the book.

Published: August, 2008
Pages: 352
Author's website: Wife in the North Country, Her blog

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

This is an amazing book! You don't stop thinking about it for days. It's a great book club book for everyone.

Here's a summary of We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver from Publishers Weekly on Amazon:
A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far. A gifted journalist as well as the author of seven novels, she brings to her story a keen understanding of the intricacies of marital and parental relationships as well as a narrative pace that is both compelling and thoughtful.

Eva Khatchadourian is a smart, skeptical New Yorker whose impulsive marriage to Franklin, a much more conventional person, bears fruit, to her surprise and confessed disquiet, in baby Kevin. From the start Eva is ambivalent about him, never sure if she really wanted a child, and he is balefully hostile toward her; only good-old-boy Franklin, hoping for the best, manages to overlook his son's faults as he grows older, a largely silent, cynical, often malevolent child. The later birth of a sister who is his opposite in every way, deeply affectionate and fragile, does nothing to help, and Eva always suspects his role in an accident that befalls little Celia.

The narrative, which leads with quickening and horrifying inevitability to the moment when Kevin massacres seven of his schoolmates and a teacher at his upstate New York high school, is told as a series of letters from Eva to an apparently estranged Franklin, after Kevin has been put in a prison for juvenile offenders. This seems a gimmicky way to tell the story, but is in fact surprisingly effective in its picture of an affectionate couple who are poles apart, and enables Shriver to pull off a huge and crushing shock far into her tale.

It's a harrowing, psychologically astute, sometimes even darkly humorous novel, with a clear-eyed, hard-won ending and a tough-minded sense of the difficult, often painful human enterprise.

Originally LOLAs was going to review this book in January 2008 and so I read it in December. But after a few of us read it, we decided it was not the best holiday read so we pushed the discussion back to our April group.

Since this was before I started blogging, I don't have many comments. But here is what Julie said in her book journal - "Wow - this is quite a novel. I thought it was so well written, but I just couldn't quite give it five stars. I just couldn't bring myself to love this book because it was so gruesome. But well worth the read."

As she said, it's not a light read. But I think it's a must read for all book clubs.

Pages: 416
Series: None
Author's Website: Harper Collins
Discussion Questions: Reading Group Guide

Monday, August 4, 2008

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

Click here to go to The Friendly Book Nook and read Amy's review of Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage. Sounds like a fascinating book and one that would be a great discussion afterward.

Published: Hardcover July, 2008
Pages: 352
Series: None
Authors Website:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble

Just the nature of The Reading Group, a group of women in a book club, lend it to a good discussion. There are many strong characters and it's interesting to see who you might identify with.

Click here for my review.

Published: November, 2003
Pages: 480
Series: None
Author's website:

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

This was one of my top reads in 2007! I recommended it to my LOLAs (Ladies on Literary Adventures) book club and they will be discussing it in August, 2008.

Click here for my review.

Published: February, 1998
Pages: 400
Series: These is My Words, Sarah's Quilt, Star Garden
Author's website:

Book Club Ideas

As any booklover knows, not all books are good for book club discussions. I want to have a place to catalogue the books that are recommended for book clubs - both ones I've read and ones that others have reviewed. My goal is this is a source of information for when my book club and others are looking for books to add to the schedule. Whether the book club decides annually or monthly, hopefully there will be a good list here to choose from.