Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Salon Discussion

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, April 30th at 6:30pm and the topic of discussion will be American plays and playwrights.

Twice each year the Genre Reading Group (GRG) holds a good, old fashioned literary salon.  There is no assigned topic.  Each member is encouraged to bring any boo(s) of their choice to share with the group.  This year those salons fall in March, with another to follow in the fall.  These meetings frequently end up being some of my favorite of the year because of the variety of titles GRG members bring to the table.

The Secret Race is a definitive look at the world of professional cycling—and the doping issue surrounding this sport and its most iconic rider, Lance Armstrong—by former Olympic gold medalist Tyler Hamilton and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle.
Over the course of two years, Coyle conducted more than two hundred hours of interviews with Hamilton and spoke candidly with numerous teammates, rivals, and friends. The result is an explosive book that takes us, for the first time, deep inside a shadowy, fascinating, and surreal world of unscrupulous doctors, anything-goes team directors, and athletes so relentlessly driven to succeed that they would do anything—and take any risk, physical, mental, or moral—to gain the edge they need to win.
 Tyler Hamilton was once one of the world’s best-liked and top-ranked cyclists—a fierce competitor renowned among his peers for his uncanny endurance and epic tolerance for pain. In the 2003 Tour de France, he finished fourth despite breaking his collarbone in the early stages—and grinding eleven of his teeth down to the nerves along the way. He started his career with the U.S. Postal Service team in the 1990s and quickly rose to become Lance Armstrong’s most trusted lieutenant, and a member of his inner circle. For the first three of Armstrong’s record seven Tour de France victories, Hamilton was by Armstrong’s side, clearing his way. But just weeks after Hamilton reached his own personal pinnacle—winning the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics—his career came to a sudden, ignominious end: He was found guilty of doping and exiled from the sport.
 From the exhilaration of his early, naïve days in the peloton, Hamilton chronicles his ascent to the uppermost reaches of this unforgiving sport. In the mid-1990s, the advent of a powerful new blood-boosting drug called EPO reshaped the world of cycling, and a relentless, win-at-any-cost ethos took root. Its psychological toll would drive many of the sport’s top performers to substance abuse, depression, even suicide. For the first time ever, Hamilton recounts his own battle with clinical depression, speaks frankly about the agonizing choices that go along with the decision to compete at a world-class level, and tells the story of his complicated relationship with Lance Armstrong.
 A journey into the heart of a never-before-seen world, The Secret Race is a riveting, courageous act of witness from a man who is as determined to reveal the hard truth about his sport as he once was to win the Tour de France.
Canada by Richard Ford

The only writer ever to win both the Pulitzer Prize and Pen/Faulkner Award for a single novel (Independence Day) Richard Ford follows the completion of his acclaimed Bascombe trilogy with Canada. After a five-year hiatus, an undisputed American master delivers a haunting and elemental novel about the cataclysm that undoes one teenage boy’s family, and the stark and unforgiving landscape in which he attempts to find grace.
A powerful and unforgettable tale of the violence lurking at the heart of the world, Richard Ford’s Canada will resonate long and loud for readers of stark and sweeping novels of American life, from the novels of Cheever and Carver to the works of Philip Roth, Charles Frazier, Richard Russo, and Jonathan Franzen.
Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

For twelve years, he believed she died in an accident. Then, he was told she'd been murdered. Now, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast discovers that his beloved wife Helen is alive. But their reunion is cut short when Helen is brazenly abducted before his eyes. And Pendergast is forced to embark on a furious cross-country chase to rescue her.
But all this turns out to be mere prologue to a far larger plot: one that unleashes a chillingly-almost supernaturally-adept serial killer on New York City. And Helen has one more surprise in store for Pendergast: a piece of their shared past that makes him the one man most suited to hunting down the killer.
His pursuit of the murderer will take Pendergast deep into the trackless forests of South America, to a hidden place where the evil that has blighted both his and Helen's lives lies in wait . . . a place where he will learn all too well the truth of the ancient proverb: before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can't say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.
Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy's are in jeopardy, too. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down.
Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
Feisty Lulu sets out to earn some cash in this illustrated chapter book from children’s book legends Judith Viorst and Lane Smith.
The stubbornly hilarious Lulu has decided it’s time to buckle down and earn some cash. How else can she save up enough money to buy the very special thing that she is ALWAYS and FOREVER going to want? After some failed attempts at lucrative gigs (baking cookies, spying, reading to old people), dog walking seems like a sensible choice. But Brutus, Pookie, and Cordelia are not interested in making the job easy, and the infuriatingly helpful neighborhood goody-goody, Fleischman, has Lulu at the end of her rope. And with three wild dogs at the other end, Lulu’s patience is severely tested. Will she ever make a friend—or the money she needs?
In this standalone sequel to Lulu and the Brontosaurus, industry legends Judith Viorst and Lane Smith once again prove that even the loudest, rudest, and most obstinate of girls can win us over.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.
Floors by Patrick Carman
Charlie had his chocolate factory. Stanley Yelnats had his holes. Leo has the wacky, amazing Whippet Hotel.
The Whippet Hotel is a strange place full of strange and mysterious people. Each floor has its own quirks and secrets. Leo should know most of them - he is the maintenance man's son, after all. But a whole lot more mystery gets thrown his way when a series of cryptic boxes are left for him . . . boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and unexpected alliances. Leo had better be quick on his feet, because the fate of the building he loves is at stake . . . and so is Leo's own future!
GENERAL DISCUSSION:  This group of YA and children’s titles got us on the subject of reading, as adults, literature intended for children.  I have put a variety of YA/children’s lit on the list of topics to be voted on in the fall since we’ve all expressed interest and curiosity about going back and reading some childhood favorites as well as what is popular now with younger readers.  I came across a great article on Facebook from Horn Book about the pleasures, but also the down side, of reading up (reading ahead of your “age group”). 
A cultural history of candy—how it evolved from medicine and a luxury to today's Kit Kat bars and M&M's
Told through the Kate Hopkins' travels in Europe and the U.S., Sweet Tooth is a first-hand account of her obsession with candy and a detailed look at its history and development. The sugary treats we enjoy today have a prominent past entertaining kings, curing the ill, and later developing into a billion-dollar industry. The dark side of this history is that the confectionery industry has helped create an environment of unhealthy overindulgence, has quelled any small business competition that was deemed to be a risk to any large company's bottom line, and was largely responsible for the slave trade that evolved during the era of colonization.
Candy's history is vast and complex and plays a distinct part in the growth of the Western world. Thanks to the ubiquity of these treats which allows us to take them for granted, that history has been hidden or forgotten. Until now. Filled with Hopkins' trademark humor and accompanied by her Candy Grab Bag tasting notes, Sweet Tooth is a must-read for everybody who considers themselves a candy freak.
Fading Ads of Birmingham by Charles Buchanan
The fading advertisements on the walls of Birmingham paint an illuminating picture of the men and women who built an industrial boomtown in the first half of the twentieth century. Experience the disappearing art and see what these commercial creations looked like with fresh paint. Discover the stories behind the wares they hawked, the buildings they adorned and the streets they overlooked. Which soft drink helped you "get wise"? Where could you store a piano in the 1920s, and what gum should you chew for indigestion? Advertising expert, artist and writer Charles Buchanan unravels the mysteries behind Birmingham's ghost signs to reveal glimpses of the past now hidden in plain sight.
Most people do not stop to realize how many of their fond memories involve advertising signs. Although these neon spectaculars, billboards, and even signs painted directly onto brick walls were created expressly to persuade customers to buy products or patronize businesses, many such signs remained in place for so long that they became beloved landmarks in their own right. For Images of America: Vintage Birmingham Signs, Tim Hollis has scoured the archives of Birmingham's former sign companies, as well as other private collections, to compile some of the best remembered or most obscure signs that dotted the urban and suburban landscape. Here readers will again see the Buffalo Rock bottle pouring its ginger ale into a glass, the Golden Flake clown smiling down at passersby, the Barber's milk clock at the Five Points South intersection, and many more. Through these vintage photographs, readers can once again visit such once-thriving destinations as Eastwood Mall, Burger in a Hurry, and the Kiddieland amusement park.
Dripping Thighs, Sticky Chicken Fingers, Vanilla Chicken, Chicken with a Lardon, Bacon-Bound Wings, Spatchcock Chicken, Learning-to-Truss-You Chicken, Holy Hell Wings, Mustard-Spanked Chicken, and more, more, more!
 Fifty chicken recipes, each more seductive than the last, in a book that makes every dinner a turn-on. 
 “I want you to see this. Then you’ll know everything. It’s a cookbook,” he says and opens to some recipes, with color photos. “I want to prepare you, very much.” This isn’t just about getting me hot till my juices run clear, and then a little rest. There’s pulling, jerking, stuffing, trussing. Fifty preparations. He promises we’ll start out slow, with wine and a good oiling . . . Holy crap. “I will control everything that happens here,” he says. “You can leave anytime, but as long as you stay, you’re my ingredient.” I’ll be transformed from a raw, organic bird into something—what? Something delicious.
So begins the adventures of Miss Chicken, a young free-range, from raw innocence to golden brown ecstasy, in this spoof-in-a-cookbook that simmers in the afterglow of E.L. James’ssensational Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Like Anastasia Steele, Miss Chicken finds herself at the mercy of a dominating man, in this case, a wealthy, sexy, and very hungry chef. 
And before long, from unbearably slow drizzling to trussing, Miss Chicken discovers the sheer thrill of becoming the main course. A parody in three acts—“The Novice Bird” (easy recipes for roasters), “Falling to Pieces” (parts perfect for weeknight meals), and “Advanced Techniques” (the climax of cooking)—Fifty Shades of Chicken is a cookbook of fifty irresistible, repertoire-boosting chicken dishes that will leave you hungry for more.
With memorable tips and revealing photographs, Fifty Shades of Chicken will have you dominating dinner.
Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin
At one time or another, everyone has wished they could be someone else. Exploring this universal longing, Allie Larkin follows up the success of her debut novel, Stay, with a moving portrait of friendship and identity.
When Jenny Shaw hears someone shout “Jessie!” across a hotel lobby, she impulsively answers. All her life, Jenny has toed the line, but something propels her to seize the opportunity to become Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. Lonely in her own life, Jenny is embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends—and finds unexpected romance. But when she delves into Jessie’s past, Jenny discovers a secret that spurs her to take another leap into the unknown.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow, an astonishing literary debut, takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul.  It is the story of charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a 21st century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture.  Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end.  Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the missions’ sole survivor—only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission’s failure.  In clean, effortless prose and with captivating flashes of wit, Russell creates memorable characters who navigate a world of exciting ideas and disturbing moral issues without ever losing their humanity or humor.  Both heartbreaking and triumphant, and rich in literary pleasures great and small, The Sparrow is a powerful and haunting book.  It is a magical novel as literate as The Nameof the Rose, as farsighted as The Handmaid’s Tale and as readable as The ThornBirds.
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.
It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  
For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.
And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.
Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
 A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

That's what we've read.  What are YOU reading?

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