Book Club Picks for 2015

images-1Whether or not you like to discuss books, a list of possible new reads is always tempting to explore, and next year’s selection of books from one of my local book clubs offers quite a range.  Only ten books, one a month; November is for lunching and December for the holidays.

The books I’ve read and reviewed are in red; click on the link to read my thoughts.  I checked out summaries and review of the others – just to see what there are about…

Have you read any on the list?

Book Club Picks for 2015

1) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

2) China Dolls by Lisa See

“…three young women who come up together on the “Chop Suey Circuit” — all-Asian nightclub shows for mostly white audiences: Helen {is} from the traditional family of a well-heeled Chinatown merchant; Grace escaped an abusive home in the Midwest; and Ruby is a scrappy climber, a Japanese dancer “passing” as Chinese. They pledge everlasting friendship to one another, only to see their bond suffer the ravages of fame, time and war, particularly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”  from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong review in the New York Times

3) Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

“A crime thriller based on a daughter’s mysterious disappearance… thrusts her father into the world of violence and deception that lurks just below the surface of his nondescript Connecticut suburb.”  from Kirkus Reviews

4) The Blue Zone by Dan Buettner

Review from the New York Times: How To Live Longer Without Really Trying 

5) The Tattoo by Chris McKinney

“Ken Hideyoshi is the new guy in Halawa Correctional Institute (Hawaii)…. observes his cellmate Cal—the mute tattoo artist of the prison, a wife murderer. SYN, a gang symbol, is tattooed on his hand, and he has a Japanese emblem inscribed on his left shoulder. He asks Cal for a tattoo on his back…While he is being worked on, he tells Cal his life story, a tale of hardship and abuse… ”  from the Barnes and Noble Overview

6) Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

“Just two months shy of his fourth birthday, Colton Burpo, the son of an evangelical pastor in Imperial, Neb., was rushed into emergency surgery with a burst appendix.  He woke up with an astonishing story: He had died and gone to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather; the biblical figure Samson; John the Baptist; and Jesus…  Colton’s father, Todd, has turned the boy’s experience into a 163-page book…”  from Julie Bosman’s New York Times Review

7) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Short story collection by Nigerian author of “Americanah”

8) The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin

9) The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar

“Héctor Tobar’s second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system…”

Book Review: The Barbarian Nurseries  by Richard Rayner, Special to the Los Angeles Times

10) Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

9780316204279_p0_v1_s260x420Being a misunderstood genius and living among fools can be stressful – and funny. In a rollicking narrative that combines emails, report cards, and the voice of a certified MacArthur genius, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? creates an adventure about the consequences of feeling misplaced. Stereotyping Seattle with Microsoft, Starbucks, and rain is easy, but Semple cleverly uses this base to satirize the obvious while weaving the story around Bernadette’s life. Semple was a writer for comedy shows – Mad About You, Arrested Development – with a brand of humor that connected to me. As I was laughing, sometimes I wondered how she had gotten inside my head.

Elgin Branch, a “rock-star” at Microsoft, has invented Samantha, a robot who can be directed through a microchip band-aid on the forehead (similar to a true and recent news story about brain implants in the disabled that manipulate robotic arms). His wife, Bernadette, an acclaimed architect who invented the greening of buildings, won the MacArthur award for her twenty-mile house (all materials used available within 20 miles of construction). After an incident in LA (no spoilers here), she shifts her focus to raising her brilliant daughter, Bee. Bee’s Christmas wish is to go to Antarctica, and the adventure begins.

Bernadette would not describe herself as an introvert, but the maddening neighbor who insists on the demolition of blackberry bushes, the parents who ostracize anyone who does not volunteer at the school, and the slow-moving traffic can sometimes be too much for her East Coast mentality; idiots are everywhere. Feeling overwhelmed and alone, Bernadette hires an online service and befriends her virtual assistant. After a series of mishaps involving the “gnats” at school, the FBI, and a well-meaning therapist, Bernadette excuses herself, goes to her bathroom, and disappears. The incident is later explained (no magic or Harry Potterisms here) and the resolution is one of the funniest in the book.

The plot lines are complicated but never confusing, and in the search for Bernadette, I could not help cheering her escape, as well as hoping she would be found (again, no spoilers – you’ll have to read to find out where she went).