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MOAM BOOK CLUB

Howdy reading readers.

It’s been a long, hot, fabulous summer. A summer of love, parties, and revelling in being 50.

It’s also been a summer of reading!

I’ve been writing to lots of you with mini-lists, but here, at long last, is The Big One.  I’ve tried to add a link so you can purchase the books directly from this site, thereby earning me about $.03/book (CAD!!) but between wordpress updates and Amazon affiliate codes, I cannot for the life of me figure it out.

So here is the official Summer 2018 MOAM Book Club. Do feel free to send me comments, questions and reccos. And don’t be share to spread the book club love.

Remember, friends,  reading is for life, not just for summer…..

THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL by Heather O’Neill

I absolutely loved this magical tale set in 1930’s Montreal (with a side of NYC). Two babies left in an orphanage grow up together and fall in love. One is a musical genius, the other the consummate song’n dance gal. Together they dream up the most extravagant and fabulous circus act ever to be seen. Of course things don’t go quite as they imagined. Separated as teens, each is forced to use their talents to survive, until they can be reunited. Stunning writing. Gorgeous characters. Whimsical yet dark. Total page turner.

SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward

A pregnant teenager and her brothers are essentially raising themselves as their drunken father prepares for the upcoming hurricane. This is a visceral and beautifully written award-winning  book set in an impoverished rural town. Dog fighting, sick puppies, motherless children, and young people looking for love as devastation in the form of Hurricane Katrina looms made this a real graphic and incredible page turner.

SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward

After I finished Salvage the Bones I needed another fix of Ward’s writing. I found it in this, her next novel. Another award-winner, another story of familial desolation. This time ghosts haunt the present and the past in this poetic and stunning story of a drug-addicted woman striving to be a better parent, and her young biracial son trying to come to terms with who he is, where he comes from and where he is going. Southern Gothic greatness.

THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin

What would you do if you knew the exact date of your own death? In the late 1960’s in New York’s Lower East Side, four young siblings visit a psychic who claims to be able to predict just that. Hearing their prophecies, each sibling sets out on their own path. A tale of destiny and choices, paths dreamed of and routes taken, I was this novel to be intriguing, compelling and amazing.

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones

Celestial and Roy, a young married couple finds their newly wedded bliss destroyed when Roy is arrested and convicted for a crime Celestial knows he couldn’t possibly have committed. Through letters and straight up page-turning prose, this story of about being Black in America, trying to hold to love when you’re forced apart, and trying to keep it together, separately. So timely. So brilliant.

THE RULES DO NOT APPLY: A MEMOIR by Ariel Levy

I read several memoirs this past year, most of which fell flat. Ariel Levy’s, however, was searing, honest, funny and brutal. I’m lifting the quote straight from the back cover for this one. “When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.” Extraordinary.

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

This book had been repeatedly recommended to me. Set in WW2 France, it is the story of two sisters and how they survive the war. I never really had any interest in reading it, but it kept getting mentioned, and it kind of reminded me of All the Light We cannot See (which I read in one sitting). So I picked it up The Nightingale….and put it down only after devouring it in one long sleepless night. What a story! What a read! This in an author who really knows who to spin a tale.

THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah

See: above. Another Kristin Hannah novel, another total page turner… A Vietnam vet uproots his young family to go live off the grid in the wilds of Alaska. This is the story of the teenage daughter, coming of age and coming to terms with her parents’ unconventional and passionate choices. An extraordinary portrait of life, resilience and growing up in Alaska’s wildly beautiful and dangerous frontier. This author has written 30 novels. What to read of hers next??

GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER by Shoba Rao

In an extremely poor Indian village, two young girls form an unlikely friendship. Despite the hideous life they are born into, they find solace, light and love in the bond they share. One which threatens the power structure and the others in their lives. A statement about feminism, the caste system, and the power of love, this book is magnificent and horrifying as the girls find themselves living separate and brutal lives, always holding on to the belief that they will be reunited. Tragic, hopeful, gripping.

THE GUNNERS by Rebecca Kauffman

Six kids from very different families become best friends – complete with ghost stories, sleepovers, adventures and a clubhouse. They were destined, like so many childhood pals, to be bffs forever. And like many childhood bffs, when they hit high school, things changed. As they grew up, moved on, and skipped town, only Mikey stayed behind, living a lonely life as his vision fails. When one of the gang kills herself, the rest return to town and they reconnect and reminisce. Very Big Chill-esque….

WE ALL LOVE THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Joanne Proulx

I loved this book! A family’s life is ripped apart on one fateful night: the parents discover they’ve been cheated out of all their savings by their friend and business partner, and their son passes out in a snowbank with terrible consequences. Yes, in one night. After hitting the reader with all that, this is the story of what happens next.  Relationships are tested, as everyone tries to find ways to deal with the fallout. Some crumble and fail, some grow into something new. All are changed….

THERE THERE by Tommy Orange

There’s a big powwow happening in Oakland. For some, it’s a reunion. For others, an opportunity. As a diverse group of people share their interconnecting stories, one thing is certain: they will all converge at the powwow and shit will go down. This is a poetic, surprising, gripping and incredible read. Voices we don’t hear often enough come through loud and clear in this bright and beautiful book about indigenous urban identity. Powerful storytelling at its finest, this amazing book hits all the right notes from beginning to end.

LESS by Andrew Sean Greer

This Pulitzer-winning book centres on a failing novelist on the eve of his 50th birthday. In an effort to avoid the wedding of a past lover, he hits the road and travels around the world, trying to hide from himself. This is very much a character study with some great moments and even greater truths. It is very “writerly” and character-driven rather than plot-heavy. I absolutely loved this voice. So many lines in this book spoke to me…and stuck with me. And not just because I recently turned 50. Well, maybe a little….

STANDARD DEVIATION by Katherine Heiny

Graham lives with his second wife, the zany and kinda crazy Audra, and their autistic son. When his first wife re-enters the picture, he is forced to re-evaluate the choices he’s made in life and love. I laughed out loud while reading this. The character of Audra jumps straight off the page. This book is far from perfect, but it’s tender, awkward, and touching. It’s not a total laugh-riot, but when it’s funny, it’s it’s reeeeeally funny.

THE DIRTY BOOK CLUB by Lisi Harrison

When MJ ups and leaves her amazing job in NYC for a perfect life in California, things don’t quite turn out as planned. She is soon mysteriously conscripted into the DBC: the dirty book club, where the scandalous and erotic fiction inspires four very different women to open up about what’s happening in their real lives. Set both forty years ago and today, the author reminds us that the power of friendship is never dated.  If you’re looking for a fun read about female relationships and empowerment, look no further than this hilarious romp.

CIRCE by Madeline Miller

I am a sucker for Greek mythology and absolutely loved the Song of Achilles. When I read that this same author had a new book, I had to read it. I liked the tale better than the retelling, but I felt compelled to continue reading it to remind myself of Circe’s story and because I loved being lost in that world. A must read for mythology lovers. And a might-read for everyone else.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Abbi Waxman

A carpool mom stops to grab something from one of her neighbours – and finds her naked on the floor with a man who isn’t her husband. This is an easy, beach read about the goings-on in a neighbourhood and the affect the affair has on the families in the carpool. I quickly got sucked in to the daily drama and gossip.  Liane Moriarty-lite.

THE WIFE BETWEEN US  by Greer Hendricks

It’s hard to write about this suspenseful, twisty thriller without giving too much away, or sending the reader on a quest to forge it all out before the book’s end. Suffice to say this is a real page turner about a marriage gone very wring and the lengths a wronged party will go to fix it. I’ll leave it at that, or else it’s spoiler-alert central! Clever and yes, it’s being made into a flick…..

THAT KIND OF MOTHER by Rumaan Alam

I wanted to love this book, I really did. It’s really well-written and depicts the early days of motherhood when your life is turned totally upside down. It’s the story of a young white women who bonds with her black nursing coach. It takes a pretty crazy turn and explores some sensitive and timely topics. Overall, however, something about it left me cold. That said, people adore this book, so I’m putting it on the list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 13, 2018   No Comments

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MOAM BOOK CLUB

Winter is coming so bundle up and break out the books!

Your texts and emails and posts and hints have not gone unnoticed. The list has been brewing for months but getting it out there has taken a little longer than I’d hoped. Being distracted by the news and by life doesn’t help much either. But as the days get darker and we snuggle in to prep for the long cold days ahead, there really is no better time to whip out your book/e-reader and get lost.

Despite the many books I have adored, there were others that left me lukewarm, and even cold. Pre-ordering a bunch of eagerly anticipated titles and then finding them beyond dull was a lesson in ditching. Life really IS too short to waste on a book that doesn’t grab you (unless you’re at school. Sorry suckers…I mean…students). Arundhati Roy, Michael Chabon, Madeleine Thien, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss and even my beloved Ian McEwan totally disappointed me. Anyone else feel that way? I managed to finish Forest Dark and Nutshell but not the others. Should I? Do let me know…

In the meantime, check these out:

 

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead

Pulitzer Prize Winner. National Book Award Winner. Oprah Book Club. MOAM. Clearly this is one fine book. After being abandoned by her mother, Cora is an outcast among her fellow slaves on a Georgia plantation. Determined to make a better life for herself, she plots her escape via the Underground Railroad – a literal subway system that heads north. With each stop on the line she encounters a different life, and a new struggle. Cora’s unbelievable odyssey will leave you breathless, feeling both elated and disgusted with each passing chapter. An important, beautiful piece of art.  Also – coming soon to a screen near you, adapted by Barry Jenkins, of Moonlight fame.

 

13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A FAT GIRL by Mona Awad

Another award-winner (and shortlisted for the Giller), this fabulous first novel tells the story of a suburban girl who can’t see herself as anything other then the Fat Girl. Sharp and funny, heart-breaking and sad, and oft-times downright uncomfortable, this reflection on body image and what it means to be thin and gorgeous – or not – in an looks-obssessed world is one for everybody. And every body.

 

THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett

Another debut, another fantastic voice. Haunted by the recent suicide of her mother, high school senior Nadia is forced to make a life-changing decision. Friendship, teen romance, an unwanted pregnancy and what could have been all come in to play as Nadia looks back on that eventful final year of high school and the reckoning that comes with the passing of time.  A powerful look at motherhood in all its guises – being a mother, wanting a mother, having a mother.

 

A LITTLE LIFE – Hanya Yanagihara

Warning: this is not so much of a book as it is a masterpiece. And it is massive. Seriously – 737 pages that admittedly took me a couple of tries. The first time, I didn’t think the plot was grabby enough, though the writing was. The second time, I had a hard time focusing on who was who, yet was intrigued by the characters. The third time I couldn’t put it down.  Four friends from college try to make their way in NYC. Sounds simple, and is anything but. An operatic, gorgeous and devastating read. Challenge yourselves. It’s unforgettable and well-worth it.

 

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU – Celeste Ng

When a 16-year old dies tragically, her family, the only mixed-race family in their small town, tries to figure out what happened.  Celeste Ng is a brilliant and totally accessible writer as she explores the effects the tragedy has on the family and their relationships with the town – and each other. I had heard about Little Fires Everywhere (see below) and started this book while waiting for the next one’s release. I was totally transported – and transfixed. Racial issues, trying to belong, the fragility of happiness – it’s all here and it’s all amazing.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE – Celeste Ng

Family dynamics meet small town politics in another gorgeously written novel by Celeste Ng. Lives intersect as two totally different families are thrown together in unexpected ways. A white family tries to adopt a Chinese baby and relationships are tested as the characters are forced to take sides. In this book and the one above, seemingly simple prose that is deeply sharp leaves you thinking about the characters long after the last page has been turned. Celeste Ng could be one of my new favourites.

 

THE HATE U GIVE – Angie Thomas

There was a shitload of hype surrounding this novel – it debuted at the top of the NYT YA best seller list. But make no mistake, this is not just another young adult novel.  A poignant and ridiculously relevant story about what it’s like to be a person of colour in today’s USA. When narrator Starr witnesses the murder of her unarmed BFF by the police, everyone wants to know what really happened. So many reviews use the word “necessary” and that’s exactly what this is: a must-read that is timely without being preachy, channeling all the love, laughter and anger that we all can’t help but feel so often these days. Totally necessary reading.

 

EXIT WEST – Mohsin Hamid

Two young people meet and fall in love against the backdrop of a city under siege in a brutal civil war. He is a restrained prodigal son, she is an independent fiery spirit. Leaving their families and lives behind, they join the flood of refugees popping up in other countries through mystical and magical doorways. They may make it out alive, but will their relationship survive? Another timely read for an uncertain time.

 

MARLENA – Julie Buntin

“The Story of two girls and the wild year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades”. That’s the official log line. The unofficial one should read “a year in the life of two 15-year old girls and how it can go spectacularly wrong spectacularly fast”. At 15 every little thing means everything. A lot of firsts. A couple of lasts. And a whole lot of shit that sticks with you forever. Great read from a great voice.

 

RABBIT CAKE -Annie Hartnett

Another story of family dysfunction and loss, another amazing voice with a gift for story telling. Our narrator, Elvis, is a young girl trying to figure it all out after her mom’s death. She can’t and she won’t but at least she can try to keep some kind of normalcy in her eccentric and suffering family. A great coming-of-age novel that is smart, engaging, funny and sad. Kind of absurd without being too crazy, this book had me from page one.

 

HOW TO BEHAVE IN A CROWD – Camille Bordas

Izidore aka Dory is the youngest in a family of six super smart and trippy kids. Only he’s kind of normal, which means he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the fam. So while they’re busy prepping PhD theses and creating symphonies, he is the one who is actually noticing things, feeling feelings, and trying to live a real life. And when tragedy strikes, Dory tries to make sense of it all. This is an incredibly charming and quirky coming of age story.

 

YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT  – Jessi Klein

If you like Amy Shumer, you’ll LOVE Jessi Klein, one of Shumer’s writers. And if you don’t like Amy Shumer, you’ll still like Jessi Klein. Her memoir is like the smarter, deeper and, dare I say, funnier version of Shumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. I laughed out loud – a lot. And was moved too. She’s got all the (written) humour of Shumer but with a lot more sensitivity and intelligence.

 

THE FUTURES – Anna Pitoniak

I kept hearing about this book, and it never really appealed. Until I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It’s a New York story of two college students who fall in love and move to the big city to pursue their hopes and dreams. When the financial crisis hits, they find themselves at the very center of it. Alternating between their points of view, the book explores those trying times in our early twenties when we’re trying to figure out our world, our place in it and who we really are.

 

THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE – Zoe Whitall

When a beloved husband, father and teacher is arrested and charged with sexual assault, his family must deal with the fall out. Apropos, no? This exploration of loyalty, trust and truth is a gripping read as the author explores the toll one person’s actions can take on those around him. I found this to be a real page turner BUT the ending did fall a little flat. Still, when I enjoyed reading it, I really enjoyed reading it….

 

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR – by Paul Kalinithi

Proceed with caution and get your kleenex ready, because this is one devastating read. This memoir is written by a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Really. And yes, he dies while writing this book and his wife finishes it (no spoilers – it’s apparent from the first page). Examining what makes life worth living, this  superb book is an examination of life, love and how we live when we know we’re going to die. A wonderful, life-affirming tear-jerker that is no way shmaltzy.

 

ANOTHER BROOKLYN – Jacqueline Woodson

This sparely written novel is an exploration of 1970’s Brooklyn as seen through the eyes of a young black girl and her friends as they set out to navigate the mean streets of the city – and of adolescence. Powerful, evocative and emotional, you’ll be transported between now and then just like the narrator. This is a short book, but don’t let its size diminish its stature. Pure poetry.

 

GOODBYE VITAMIN – by Rachel Khong

This book started off quirky and funny and soon had me in tears. When Ruth’s engagement is called off, she returns to her hometown where is she is soon put “in charge” of her father who has been grappling with dementia. As she reconnects with her friends, family and former life, Ruth tries to figure out what she’s been running from all these years – and where she is actually going. Her journey through the best and worst of times is something we can all relate to, especially those who wonder if you can ever really go home again – wherever that may be.

 

CRAZY RICH ASIANS / CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND / RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS -Kevin Kwan

Oh, yes I did! After hearing about Crazy Rich Asians for ages and wondering if it was funny, racist or just plain cheesy, I decided to have a look. And I’m so glad I did. The sgtory revolves around the scandal unleashed in the rarified world of Chinese billionaires when the heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Asia brings home -gasp! – an American-born Chinese girl. Soon the backbiting and infighting begins – and doesn’t stop. I finished the first book in 3 days, becoming completely lost in a very different world – and I loved it! So much so, I picked up the other two books and downed them in quick succession. Is it a brilliant series? Hell no. Is it fabulous fun? F&ck yeah! Enjoy – because why not?!

 

To purchase any of these books, click on the links below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October 30, 2017   1 Comment

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MOAM BOOK CLUB!

Summer! At last!

It feels like ages: since it’s been glorious, since I’ve written here, and since I’ve put up a Book Club post. I’ve been reading a lot. Have you? Anything I should add to my list? I’m always looking for a good read. And apparently, you are too. So,without further ado, I present the 2014 MOAM Summer Book Club. Enjoy!

THE GOOD LORD BIRD by James McBride

This award-winning novel tells the story of abolitionist John Brown through the eyes of a rescued slave. A rescued boy who, after being mistaken for a girl, maintains the charade.  There’s a bit of a Twain-esque feeling to this book and if you like that sort of thing, you’ll love this. Even if you don’t, it’s a great read. Beautifully written, sometimes horrific and always engaging, this historical novel is no frothy beach read, but it’s well worth a look.
 

THE PARIS WIFE – Paula McCain

And speaking of Gatsby….F. Scott Fitzgerald makes an appearance in this book, one of many about Ernest Hemingway’s handful of wives. This novel is based on the life of wife #1, Hadley. She was the one in it at the very beginning of Hem’s literary life. The first wife. The romantic. The one who thought she could make it work with the hard-drinking, fast-living writer. She was wrong, of course. A bit of a train-wreck of a relationship, but of course you can’t look away…

AN INDISCRETION by Charles Dubow

A golden couple. NYC. The Hamptons. A young woman who infiltrates the family and their circle in every way. Gatsby-ish vibe, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a film in the works. One bad – really, really bad – choice sends the family reeling. And sent me reeling too. Talk about fall-out! This is a morality tail that both frustrated and saddened me, and stayed with me long after I finished it.

 

TRAINS & LOVERS by Alexander McCall Smith

I love a good traveler tale. This one’s set on a train, on the journey from Edinburgh to London. Four strangers get to chatting and next thing you know, they’re telling their life – and love – stories. Always easiest to do with strangers, right? Like four little novels in one, this is short and sweet and perfect for summer. Check your cynicism at the door and enjoy.

 

THE GROUP by Mary McCarthy

Set in the ’30’s, it follows a group of women – The Group – after they graduate from Vassar. It explores their lives, families, and jobs. Their marriages, affairs, and divorces. It’s sex, love and analysis – which would be de rigueur except for the fact that it was published in ’63 and was considered pretty rad at the time. And – escandalo! – it was even banned. Kind of like a smarty pants version of Rona Jaffe’s 70’s classic “Class Reunion”!

 

A FEW SECONDS OF RADIANT FILMSTRIP: A MEMOIR OF 7TH GRADE by Kevin Brockmeier

I couldn’t not read a book with this title. This first year of middle school aka Junior High is huge. Coming of age, evolution of friendships, I love this stuff! Great references, funny and sweet, anyone who has ever been 12 will relate, even in some very small way. Charming and lovely.

 

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME by Jancee Dunn

The subtitle to this is “A Jersey Girl’s Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous”. And that’s exactly what this is! Dunn is an unlikely candidate but somehow lands a dream job at Rolling Stone. With stints as a VJ, celebrity profiler and writer, she never thought she’d be rubbing shoulders with rock stars and film gods. But she does, and tells us all about it in a self-deprecating and hilarious memoir. I want more of her. And I want to be her friend!

 

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET – by Liane Moriarty

What if you found a letter addressed to you but only to be opened upon the death of your partner (who is very much alive)? And what if you opened it and found a terrible, horrible, very bad confession? Then what? That’s the premise of this seemingly cheesy yet riveting book. Perfect for summer, it’s a domestic drama set in Australia. Another possible movie-in-the-making I couldn’t put it down. And neither will you.

 

THE GOLDFINCH – by Donna Tartt

If you’re one of the 27 people who haven’t read this enormous Pulitzer Prize winner yet, what are you waiting for? Yes, it’s massive. But it’s infinitely readable. It’s also sparked a major debate amongst the literati of whether or not it is “Great Literature” or a glorified Young Adult fiction. Check it out and judge for yourself. I’m a fan.

July 11, 2014   No Comments

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