Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GRG Recap - Alabama Authors

There’s nothing like local authors to get a spirited discussion going! In anticipation of an author luncheon hosted by Southern Magic, the Birmingham chapter of Romance Writers of America, many of our GRGers read titles from authors scheduled to attend the event, but any book by an Alabama author was eligible for discussion.

On November 29th at 6:30pm, we’ll be discussing books on the art and science of happiness. This should be a very interesting discussion, so don’t miss out! Have company in town for the Thanksgiving holiday? Bring them with you, we all love to see new faces!

On to the list:

When Light Breaks by Patti Callahan Henry
Garnering comparisons to Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy, Patti Callahan Henry has woven her lyrical Southern voice throughout the Lowcountry landscape. Now, as two women from opposite sides of the same sea meet, a tale unfolds that will draw readers into the heart's remembrances-and the tender awakenings of first love.

Though bogged down in the stress of planning her elaborate wedding to a professional golfer, twenty-seven-year-old Kara Larson still makes time to visit ninety-six-year-old Maeve Mahoney at her nursing home. And as Maeve recounts the rambling story of her first love back in Ireland, Kara is driven to remember her own first love: childhood neighbor Jack Sullivan.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: P.C. Henry’s novel features the popular story-within-a-story plot device and we came up with the following favorites that also feature it.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flag
It’s the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women, of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present, for Evelyn and for us, will never quite be the same.  Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, with humor and drama, and with an ending that would fill with smiling tears the Whistle Stop Lake...if they only had a lake....

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

The movie, Titanic
Nothing on Earth can rival the epic spectacle and breathtaking grandeur of Titanic the sweeping love story that sailed into the hearts of moviegoers around the world ultimately emerging as the most popular motion picture of all time.Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar-nominee Kate Winslet light up the screen as Jack and Rose the young lovers who find one another on the maiden voyage of the "unsinkable" R.M.S. Titanic. But when the doomed luxury liner collides with an iceberg in the frigid North Atlantic their passionate love affair becomes a thrilling race for survival.

Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, a Memoir by Wayne Flynt
This historical memoir by the widely recognized scholar, Wayne Flynt, chronicles the inner workings of his academic career at Samford and Auburn Universities, as well as his many contributions to the general history of Alabama. Flynt has traveled the state and the South lecturing and teaching both lay and academic groups, calling on his detailed knowledge of both the history and power structures in Alabama to reveal uncomfortable truths wherever he finds them, whether in academic institutions that fall short of their stated missions, in government and industry leaders who seek and hold power by playing to the fears and prejudices of the public, or in religious groups who abandon their original missions and instead seek financial and emotional comfort in lip service only.

Children’s author Hoyt Wilson
Hoyt Wilson, author, educator and film producer has earned 16 national media awards including four national film awards for a biographical film series from the International Film Festival of New York, National Educational Film Festival, The Independent Film Producers Of America and the US Indusrtrial Film Festival. All his work is of a biographical nature. (amazon.com)

Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis by Howell Raines, who had a brief tenure as editor of the New York Times
Just as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance used motorcycle repair as a metaphor for the examination of self, Howell Raines uses his lifelong experiences as a fly fisherman to explore his life, politics, gender, roles as a son, husband, father, and journalist, and his attitudes toward aging and mortality. A man who has fished with presidents and Southern friends as well as with his own two sons, Raines chronicles his progress from "the Redneck way of fishing" for quantity and food to the catch-and-release way of his friend and mentor Dick Blalock. Blalock taught Raines that fly fishing is about attitude and friendship, not about catching fish. Raines imparts tips on casting and stream beds gracefully, along with his love for what he calls "waters that move" as he explores the deep funk he fell into at midlife, complete with a divorce, a seven-year feud with his father and brother, and the all-consuming animosity he allowed himself to develop toward his boss at work. By casting into the waters of his own life -- and ultimately reconciling with middle age -- Howell Raines has written a literate, contemplative celebration of life and friendship.

Odd Egg Editor by Kathryn Tucker Windham
Remembering the sting of male discrimination she repeatedly endured during her career as a newspaper-woman, the author wistfully recalls the hurt of being overlooked, snubbed, and ribbed by her male colleagues.

GENERAL DISCUSSION: The Library carries an outstanding documentary film about Windham called “Kathryn: The Story of a Teller.”

Staked by J.F. Lewis
With his Denis Leary–esque wit and misanthropic outlook on (un)life, Eric is a vampire with issues. Take his memory problems, for example. He not only can’t remember who he ate for dinner yesterday, he doesn’t even remember how he became a vampire in the first place. Then his girlfriend, Tabitha, finally convinces him to turn her into a vampire—and when he does, his desire for her fades. And her younger sister Rachel sure is cute...but when Eric kills a werewolf in self-defense, things really get out of hand. Now a pack of born-again lycanthropes is out for holy retribution, while Tabitha and Rachel each have their own agendas...which may or may not include helping Eric stay in one piece. All Eric wants to do is run his strip club, drink a little blood, and be left alone. Instead, he must survive car crashes, sunlight, sex magic, and werewolves on ice—not to mention his own nasty temper and forgetfulness.

Reading a story set in a place with which the reader is familiar always sets people off, either in good ways, bad ways, or both. Diane McWhorter’s expose on civil rights in Birmingham, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama and the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, sparked some local controversy when it was published. Linda Howard writes romantic suspense and set one of her thrilling novels, Dying to Please, right here in Mountain Brook. Anne George is a perennial favorite with her Southern Sisters cozy mysteries, beginning with Murder on a Girls’ Night Out, which are set all around our great state from Birmingham to Gulf Shores as well as other Alabama locales.

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