Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland on July 11th at Heidi’s house July 11, 2012

Filed under: Books — Susan @ 12:08 pm

ImageIn this disjointed memoir, Holland describes her nine-year odyssey as a doctor on the night shift at New York City’s Bellevue hospital, a name that has become synonymous with insanity. Holland met a bewildering assortment of drunks, sociopaths, schizophrenics and homeless people malingering in hope of a warm place to crash. As the physician in charge of the psychiatric emergency room, the hard-boiled Holland acted as gatekeeper, deciding who would be sent upstairs to the psych ward, to Central Booking or back to the streets. The book also covers Holland’s personal life from her student days as a wannabe rock star to her psychotherapy sessions, her sexual escapades and her marriage and birth of her children. Holland captures the rhythms and routines of the E.R. with its unbearable suffering, petty jealousies and gallows humor. She is less successful at maintaining any kind of narrative continuity. Chapters generally run only a couple of pages and often depict random anecdotes that most likely sound better than they read.

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Time to Vote

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 12:04 pm

Please go to the link below and vote on 3 books by July 11th

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3PKHWH2

Diamond in the Rough: A Memior by Shawn Colvin

Gone Girl:  A Novel by Gillian Flynn

Gold: A Novel by Chris Cleave

I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron

Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Ride a Cockhorse by Raymond Kennedy 

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

The Sea by John Banville,

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Why I Am Like This by Cynthia Kaplan

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

 

Diamond in the Rough: A Memior by Shawn Colvin

After learning to play guitar at the age of ten, Shawn Colvin was determined to make a life in music—a decision that would send a small-town girl out on the open road for good. In 1997, two decades after she started, she got her big break. Like the troubled would-be arsonist and survivor of her smash hit “Sunny Came Home,” Colvin knows a thing or two about heartache—and setting fires. Diamond in the Rough recounts this passionate musician’s coming-of-age, from the prairies of South Dakota to the dark smoky bars in Austin, Texas, to the world stage at the Grammys.

Humorous and deeply honest, Colvin relates the experiences behind her best-loved songs in vivid color in this memoir. Diamond in the Rough captures her years of touring cross-country in bands and vans full of guys; falling in and out of love; meeting heroes like Joni Mitchell; searching for her musical identity; and making friendships that would last a lifetime. It is also an unflinching account of Colvin’s struggles—weathering addiction and depression, learning to care for not only herself but also a child—and, always, channeling those experiences into song.

With the wit, lyricism, and empathy that have characterized Colvin’s performances and inspired audiences worldwide, Diamond in the Rough looks back over a rich lifetime of highs and lows with stunning insight and candor. In its pages, we witness the inspiring story of a woman honing her artistry, finding her voice, and making herself whole.

Gone Girl:  A Novel by Gillian Flynn

On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick’s wife Amy disappears. There are signs of struggle in the house and Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect. It doesn’t help that Nick hasn’t been completely honest with the police and, as Amy’s case drags out for weeks, more and more vilifying evidence appears against him. Nick, however, maintains his innocence. Told from alternating points of view between Nick and Amy, Gillian Flynn creates an untrustworthy world that changes chapter-to-chapter. Calling Gone Girl a psychological thriller is an understatement. As revelation after revelation unfolds, it becomes clear that the truth does not exist in the middle of Nick and Amy’s points of view; in fact, the truth is far more dark, more twisted, and more creepy than you can imagine. Gone Girl is masterfully plotted from start to finish and the suspense doesn’t waver for one page. It’s one of those books you will feel the need to discuss immediately after finishing because the ending doesn’t just come; it punches you in the gut.


Gold: A Novel by Chris Cleave

Cleave goes for the gold and brings it home in his thrillingly written and emotionally rewarding novel about the world of professional cycling. . . . Cleave expertly cycles through the characters’ tangled past and present, charting their ever-shifting dynamic as ultra-competitive Zoe and Kate are forced to decide whether winning means more to them than friendship . . . Cleave likewise pulls out all the stops getting inside the hearts and minds of his engagingly complex characters. The race scenes have true visceral intensity, leaving the reader feeling breathless . . . From start to finish, this is a truly Olympic-level literary achievement.”—


I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron

Reading these succinct, razor-sharp essays by veteran humorist (I Feel Bad About My Neck), novelist, and screenwriter-director Ephron is to be reminded that she cut her teeth as a New York Post writer in the 1960s, as she recounts in the most substantial selection here, “Journalism: A Love Story.” Forthright, frequently wickedly backhanded, these essays cover the gamut of later-life observations (she is 69), from the dourly hilarious title essay about losing her memory, which asserts that her ubiquitous senior moment has now become the requisite Google moment, to several flimsy lists, such as “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again,” e.g., “Movies have no political effect whatsoever.” Shorts such as the several “I Just Want to Say” pieces feature Ephron’s trademark prickly contrariness and are stylistically digestible for the tabloids. Other essays delve into memories of fascinating people she knew, such as the Lillian Hellman of Pentimento, whom she adored until the older woman’s egomania rubbed her the wrong way. Most winning, however, are her priceless reflections on her early life, such as growing up in Beverly Hills with her movie-people parents, and how being divorced shaped the bulk of her life, in “The D Word.” There’s an elegiac quality to many of these pieces, handled with wit and tenderness.


Lies My Teacher Told me by James W. Loewen

Americans have lost touch with their history, and in Lies My Teacher Told Me Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

In this revised edition, packed with updated material, Loewen explores how historical myths continue to be perpetuated in today’s climate and adds an eye-opening chapter on the lies surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War. From the truth about Columbus’s historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, Loewen revives our history, restoring the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.

Thought provoking, nonpartisan, and often shocking, Loewen unveils the real America in this iconoclastic classic beloved by high school teachers, history buffs, and enlightened citizens across the country.Show More Show Less

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Chris Cleave’s Little Bee works because the unflinching, brutal story balances an outwardly political motive with rich, deep character development (and even some welcome humor), focusing narrowly on events before broadening to reveal some larger truths. Cleave’s firm grasp of human nature and his unsparing disdain for injustice allow him to articulate lives as different as those of Little Bee and the less-likeable Sarah; both characters, though, are unforgettable. Comparisons between Cleave and fellow Brits Ian McEwan and John Banville are apt. The only dissent came from the San Francisco Chronicle, which took issue with the narrative voices and the rushed pace of the story. All others agreed, however, that Cleave’s sophomore effort is, as the Chicago Sun-Times succinctly put it, “a loud shout of talent.”


My Antonia by Willa Cather

My Ántonia, Willa Cather’s vivid portrayal of immigrant life on the American prairie during the nineteenth century, has been a favorite since it first appeared in 1918. The harsh—yet forgiving—land, the growth and maturity of Jim Burden, the narrator, the intriguing characters, and the force of Ántonia’s strength all combine to make this novel exceptional.

Cather’s style perfectly depicts the sparseness of the prairie and the desolation of the immigrants’ existence in winter and comes alive when the glory and beauty of spring emerge.

Ride a Cockhorse by Raymond Kennedy 

Just before the opening of this painfully funny novel by the author of Lulu Incognito , mild-mannered Mrs. Fitzgibbons, a respectable New England widow and a stalwart home-loan official in a local bank, has awakened to a sudden personality transformation that will eventually lead to full-blown psychosis. At first feeling pleasantly buoyed, Mrs. Fitzgibbons confidently–and uproariously–seduces the high school’s drum major; then she unleashes her newfound oratorical flourish and gargantuan ambition on her office mates. Before she finally goes overboard, she has unseated her boss, chalked up some stunning media coups, gained a cult-like following and begun shaking up the region’s banking industry. The story itself is not lighthearted, and in fact depicts manic behavior quite accurately, but Kennedy’s own antic joy in wielding language with uncanny comic precision will have readers laughing their way through his tale–until the conclusion startles them into realizing that Mrs. Fitzgibbons has been visited by a catastrophe, more exaggerated than most but sadly common. This is comedy made all the more potent by its last-minute kick.


The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

A strong sense of place, a credible plot and deft dialogue lift Johnson’s good-humored debut novel, the first of a new series, set in Bighorn Mountain country. Walt Longmire, the veteran sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo., usually has little to do on his patrols. When Cody Pritchard is found shot to death near the Cheyenne reservation, everyone, including Deputy Victoria Moretti, a transplanted Philadelphian, believes he died in an accident. But two years earlier, Cody was one of four high schoolers convicted of raping a young Native American girl. All were given suspended sentences, and when another of the four turns up dead, it appears that someone is out for revenge. As fear mounts, Sheriff Longmire feels tension in the air between the white population and the Native American community, and he’s not pleased to think that his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear, might be directly involved in the murders. While the prose could stand tautening at times simply to up the suspense, Johnson has made an assured start that should appeal to a wide range of mystery fans.


The Sea by John Banville

Banville’s magnificent new novel, which won this year’s Man Booker Prize and is being rushed into print by Knopf, presents a man mourning his wife’s recent death—and his blighted life. “The past beats inside me like a second heart,” observes Max Morden early on, and his return to the seaside resort where he lost his innocence gradually yields the objects of his nostalgia. Max’s thoughts glide swiftly between the events of his wife’s final illness and the formative summer, 50 years past, when the Grace family—father, mother and twins Chloe and Myles—lived in a villa in the seaside town where Max and his quarreling parents rented a dismal “chalet.” Banville seamlessly juxtaposes Max’s youth and age, and each scene is rendered with the intense visual acuity of a photograph (“the mud shone blue as a new bruise”). As in all Banville novels, things are not what they seem. Max’s cruelly capricious complicity in the sad history that unfolds, and the facts kept hidden from the reader until the shocking denouement, brilliantly dramatize the unpredictability of life and the incomprehensibility of death. Like the strange high tide that figures into Max’s visions and remembrances, this novel sweeps the reader into the inexorable waxing and waning of life.

 

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.

This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Three Trapped Tigers” is a mind-boggler, and the expected outcome is to be able to know pre-revolutionary Havana as Cabrera Infante knew it himself. Whether this is even a possibility is something the reader must discover. Clues to the puzzle are divulged along the way, but mostly in the last section of the work, so that the reader gradually learns who the characters are, their relationships to one another, and how (and why?) they are experiencing pre-revolutionary Havana night life. The language games – including distortions, mutations, creations – add a unique element of humor. It is this humor that covers and pushes away the subtle insinuations of a tragic reality – a country on the verge of falling apart. In a work that contains such an energetic use of language, perhaps the “truth” is to be found in the silences.

The English version of “Tres tristes tigres” is where Cabrera Infante is most at liberty to describe that reality he wishes to convey in his work. He is no longer hindered by censorship so that he is free to use the language and descriptions he desires, making the English version closer to his original intent.

“Three Trapped Tigers” offers a dizzying experience of nocturnal Havana, of language, and of intimacy.


Why I Am Like This by Cynthia Kaplan

From her opener–“There was always one girl at camp whom everyone hated”–to her conclusion about the inner lives of truffle pigs, actress-monologist Kaplan consistently amuses while cutting surprisingly deep. Never content to be merely clever, she probes, in these professed “true stories,” the reasons why we manage to attach so much importance to self-justification without ever questioning it. Each story presents another element that in one way or another has shifted or reinforced Kaplan’s view of people and their relationships. Whether observing the suffering of Alzheimer’s, waiting tables, or trying a new therapist, Kaplan usually finds herself in the same place, wondering whether contentment with what one has or the aspiration for something more is the nobler state of mind. In the end, it seems, we are all truffle pigs, lauded for our keen senses of smell but never allowed to keep the ultimate prize for ourselves. Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen.

Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At age 26, following the death of her mother, divorce, and a run of reckless behavior, Cheryl Strayed found herself alone near the foot of the Pacific Crest Trail–inexperienced, over-equipped, and desperate to reclaim her life. Wild tracks Strayed’s personal journey on the PCT through California and Oregon, as she comes to terms with devastating loss and her unpredictable reactions to it. While readers looking for adventure or a naturalist’s perspective may be distracted by the emotional odyssey at the core of the story, Wild vividly describes the grueling life of the long-distance hiker, the ubiquitous perils of the PCT, and its peculiar community of wanderers. Others may find her unsympathetic–just one victim of her own questionable choices. But Strayed doesn’t want sympathy, and her confident prose stands on its own, deftly pulling both threads into a story that inhabits a unique riparian zone between wilderness tale and personal-redemption memoir.

 

May 30th, 2012, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens To America by Albert Brooks at JoLynnes house.

Filed under: Past Meetings — Susan @ 11:57 am

Cool Women in Attendance:

Heidi, Lori, Marci, JoLynne, Ann, Karen, Danda

Menu and Memorable Moments:

Sadly I was not there but I heard all had a great time!

 

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks at JoLynne’s house on May 30th

Filed under: Books — Susan @ 11:51 am

ImageComedian and filmmaker Brooks welcomes the reader to the year 2030 in his smart and surprisingly serious debut. Cancer has been cured, global warming is an acknowledged reality, people have robot companions, and the president is a Jew–and oy vey does he have his hands full with an earthquake-leveled Los Angeles and a growing movement by the young to exterminate the elderly. And when the Chinese offer to rebuild L.A. in exchange for a half-ownership stake in Southern California, President Bernstein is faced with a decision that will alter the future of America. Brooks’s sweeping narrative encompasses a diverse cast of characters, including an 80-year-old Angelino left homeless by the earthquake, a trust fund brat with a grudge against the elderly, and a teenage girl saddled with debt after her father’s death, all of whom get brought together just in time for a climactic hostage crisis. Brooks’s mordant vision encompasses the future of politics, medicine, entertainment, and daily living, resulting in a novel as entertaining as it is thought provoking, like something from the imagination of a borscht belt H.G. Wells.