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The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (2010)
Schine puts a clever spin on the Jane Austen novel Sense and Sensibility. Instead of two young women and their mother being thrown out of their home by their brother and his greedy wife when their father dies, the sisters are middle aged and their mother loses her home when her husband of nearly fifty years decides to divorce her and marry his greedy work assistant. For those familiar with the original the popping up of each character who parallels a character in the original is a treat. But just because you have read the original, don't think you know how this one turns out.

Visit the author's blog to learn more about her and her novels and read the New York Times review.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (2009)
Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, has written another compelling, good read. This time it's about two beautiful, wealthy sisters, Pearl and May, who are forced into arranged marriages with two unknown American men when the bottom falls out of their father's lucrative business just as Japan invades China. Tragedy after tragedy befall them in China and in America. Their sisterly bond remains intact as they work to survive what happens. It's a page turner, but be forewarned: the ending cries “sequel to come.”

Check out the author's website and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Finn by Jon Clinch

Finn by Jon Clinch (2007)
Jon Clinch’s first novel has created a fascinating story based on a minor character from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck’s abusive, alcoholic father, Pap, who meets a mysterious, violent end. This is definitely not an easy, breezy novel of life on the Mississippi, but rather a story of damaged souls and complicated relationships. According to Clinch, Huck’s pa was not a nice guy!

I enjoyed the exploration of the backstory to an American classic and think I’ll try Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which takes a look at the mad woman in Jane Eyre’s attic. I'll let you know how that goes!

Preview the book, read reviews and visit the author's website.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001)
A character study of the highest level, this unforgettable novel traces the developing relationships between an international group of hostages and their captors in an unnamed South American country. You’ll find it intriguing that the author based this on a true incident.

Go to BookBrowse for reviews and a reading group guide. Visit the author's website and listen to her being interviewed.


The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (2009)The Financial Lives of the Poets is a recent novel of one man's attempt to save his family from economic disaster, his marriage from ruin, deal with job loss and a father with Alzheimer’s.

It's gutsy to write fiction quite this up-to-the-minute, but Jess Walter has written a very enjoyable novel that is remarkably astute; a comic fable for the current hard times. Watch the author's YouTube video below, read the New York Times review and check out the author's website.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
Originally published in 1929, the title was republished in 1991 with a corrected text. One cannot call this a fast read due to the lengthy prose and "Southern English" writing. If a person wants to know about Mississippi classes of society and the prejudices of people, this is the book for you!

The pre-civil war race relations of slavery, the anti-Yankee attitudes and the Southern lifestyle are detailed in the lives of the Compson family. Each family member serves the purpose of telling the story about a wealthy Mississippi family's fall into poverty after the Civil War due to poor choices and fate. This book has literary value over enjoyable reading. People who like Faulkner probably read this book over and over, but I think once is enough.

Discover more about this Nobel Prize author's works, read more about his life, and see what Amazon.com has to say.

Ironweed by William Kennedy

Ironweed by William Kennedy (1983)
In 1938, Francis Phelan returns to Albany to confront his past. He is a heavy drinking, but big hearted bum. He beguiles you with his wit, wisdom, and the sordid story of a runaway past. The author evokes empathy for all his characters.

Visit the author's website, check out the reading group guide, and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)
Middle aged and recently widowed Henry Lee remembers the time during WWII when his best friend, Keiko, a Japanese American girl, was taken away to the internment camps. Henry's father was stubbornly, nationalistically Chinese and disowned Henry--refusing to speak to his son for years. Alternating in time between the war years and the 1980s, the story is a simply told gem about friendship and love transcending both time and distance.

Join our discussion of the book at the library on Wednesday, February 10 at 7:30.

Visit the author's website, check out the reading group guide, and read reviews at Amazon.com.

The Devil’s Company by David Liss

The Devil’s Company by David Liss (2009)
This is third in a series about Benjamin Weaver, a thief taker in 1720s London. Benjamin Weaver is blackmailed into working for a mysterious Mr. Cobb. The exact nature of what Benjamin is hired to do is kept a mystery even from Benjamin himself. As the plot becomes more and more complicated and more and more people seem to be embroiled in the scheme, Weaver must figure out who is working for whom and whom he can trust. A fun and rewarding adventure. You need not have read the first books in the series. I have not.

Read an excerpt from the book, check out the Washington Post review, and visit the author's website.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (2007)Breakfast with Buddha has a simple plot and exposition: a middle-aged man, Otto Ringling, is tricked into driving Volya Rinpoche, his sister’s guru, across the country; but Merullo’s ability to create the spiritual aspects of the journey is remarkable.

Witty and at times really funny Breakfast with Buddha drives the reader through the heart of America (the journey from Notre Dame to Chicago was especially fun) and in the process shows us a man about to discover his own true heart.

Read more about the author, read an excerpt and view reviews at Amazon.com.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)
I loved this novel about the Gonguli family – who left their home in India in the late 1960s to begin a new life in America. It’s a story not only about the immigrant experience, but also about the family ties that bind us all. Beautifully written.

Come join the Novel Idea book discussion of this title on Wednesday, October 14 at 7:30.

Read an interview with the author, preview the book, and explore a reading guide to the book.

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone (2009)
Twenty-seven year old Annie Goode, a Navy pilot, returns to her North Carolina home for her birthday just in time for a twister to hit and her long lost father Jack to contact her and beg her to fly his old plane to St. Louis. Jack is always one step ahead of the law and an accomplished con man, so Annie is reluctant to follow his wishes, except that he holds out to Annie her own one greatest wish--the name of her father. This is a picaresque adventure complete with Cuban mobsters, the FBI, handsome Miami cops, and an elusive golden statue called The Queen of the Sea. Maybe a bit long, but if you enter into the story, well worth the time.

Preview an excerpt at NPR, check out the Washington Post's review, and read an interview with the author.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (2008)
The time is post-WWII in the 1940s. The place is a Mississippi cotton farm. The story is about two families: landowners and sharecroppers. It’s extremely informative about the poverty that existed for people in the South after WWII. This is an interesting story of choices people make which turn out good and bad.

Read an excerpt, view reviews and a reading guide at BookBrowse.com and visit the author's website.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009)
Eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce is old and wise beyond her years. When first a dead bird and then a dead man turns up on the doorstep of her family's English country estate, she sets out to solve the crime herself. Set in 1950, Flavia's household consists of two older self-involved sisters, a remote father, and a faithful gardener, shell shocked from the war. Flavia researches old newspapers and tracks down village eccentrics to quiz about current and past events to solve the crime and get her father off the hook for the murder.

You might also like Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (1996) for another depiction of a young sleuth or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948) for a story about an eccentric English family told from the point of view of the youngest daughter.

Discover more about the author, read reviews and an interview with the author at Amazon.com, and visit the Flavia de Luce Fan Club.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)The Painted Veil, published in 1925, has well-developed characters not captured in the 2006 movie. This is a great short book that uses the English language concisely and descriptively. The setting is early 1920s Hong Kong, yet the story concentrates on the personalities of the characters rather than on the story's geographical settings. It’s an interesting read about humanity. This novel has as much to say as books which are much longer. It's surprising how short the time period is in which this story takes place. Before Maugham wrote The Painted Veil, he published Of Human Bondage, which is a classic book and movie.

Watch the trailer for the movie, learn more about Somerset Maugham and visit Google Books to preview his works.