Tuesday, December 15, 2009

January Book Club Selections

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet on January 11th at 7 pm (in the Training Room upstairs) to discuss Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

... more information about this book...

The Seniors Book Club will meet on January 13th at 2 pm (in the Program Room downstairs) to discuss The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

About this Book

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

(Source: www.randomhouse.ca)

About the Authors

Mary Ann Shaffer became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men's restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write in the epistolary form because, "for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier." Several years of work yielded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was greeted with avid enthusiasm, first by her family, then by her writing group, and finally by publishers around the world. Sadly, Mary Ann's health began to decline shortly thereafter, and she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book.

Mary Ann Shaffer was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1934. Her career included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, but her life-long dream was to "write a book that someone would like enough to publish." Though she did not live to see it, this dream has been realized in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Annie Barrows, whose career also included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, is the author of the Ivy and Bean series for children, as well as The Magic Half.

(Source: www.anniebarrows.com)

An interview with Annie Barrows on Youtube

A video of Guernsey today

A journalist's account of her visit to Guernsey (inspired by the book; includes a video)

Related DVDs available at St. Albert Public Library:

Island at War (look for vols. 1-3)

Enemy at the Door (look for vols. 1-4)

Favourite Books discussed at the Christmas Parties

It's always fascinating to see the variety of books our book club members pick as "favourite reads". Here is a list of the titles (with links to our library catalog) we talked about at our recent Christmas get-togethers:


The Cellist of Sarajewo by Steven Galloway
What is the what: the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng : a novel by Dave Eggers
The Lizard cage by Karen Connelly
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Girl with a pearl earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Three daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck
New York : the novel by Edward Rutherfurd (picked by 2 members)
My sister's keeper by Jodi Picoult
Three views of crystal water by Katherine Govier
The Island by Victoria Hislop
Icefields by Thomas Wharton
Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright
Wishin' and hopin' : a Christmas story by Wally Lamb
Christy by Catherine Marshall (not at SAPL)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Sarah's key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (translated from French)
The Hero's walk by Anita Rau Badami
A boy of good breeding by Miriam Toews
A Confederacy of dunces by John Kennedy Toole


Wild Swans : three daughters of China by Jung Chang
Tuesdays with Morrie : an old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson by Mitch Albom
Guns, germs, and steel : the fates of human societies by Jared M. Diamond
What is America? : a short history of the new world order by Ronald Wright
Mennonite in a little black dress : a memoir of going home by Rhoda Janzen
Hungry planet : what the world eats by Peter Menzel
Impressionism : 50 paintings you should know by Ines Janet Engelmann.

Friday, November 20, 2009

December Book Club Meetings

The Seniors Book Club will hold its annual Christmas party on Wednesday, December 9th at 2:00 pm in the Training Room. There will be a "secret" book draw so please bring along a wrapped book (need not be new, can be gently used) and a "favorite book" selection to share with the group. Holiday treats will be served!

The Monday Evening Book Club will be having a Christmas get-together on Monday, December 14th at 7:00 pm in the Library Program Room. Please remember to bring along a wrapped book for a "secret' book swap (book need not be new, may be gently used) and come prepared to talk about a favorite book with the group, something other than our book club choices. Refreshments will be served!

Friday, October 23, 2009

November Book Club Selections

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the library program room on November 9th at 7 pm. This month we'll discuss Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas.

Click here for more information about this book.

The Seniors Book Club selection for this month is Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. We will meet in the 2nd floor Training Room on November 18th at 2 pm.

Here is a synopsis:
"Fifth-grade scholarship students and best friends Henry and Keiko are the only Asians in their Seattle elementary school in 1942. Henry is Chinese, Keiko is Japanese, and Pearl Harbor has made all Asians-even those who are American born-targets for abuse. Because Henry's nationalistic father has a deep-seated hatred for Japan, Henry keeps his friendship with and eventual love for Keiko a secret. When Keiko's family is sent to an internment camp in Idaho, Henry vows to wait for her. Forty years later, Henry comes upon an old hotel where the belongings of dozens of displaced Japanese families have turned up in the basement, and his love for Keiko is reborn. In his first novel, award-winning short-story writer Ford expertly nails the sweet innocence of first love, the cruelty of racism, the blindness of patriotism, the astonishing unknowns between parents and their children, and the sadness and satisfaction at the end of a life well lived. The result is a vivid picture of a confusing and critical time in American history." - Library Journal

Check out Jamie Ford's website here.

Click here for more information on the history of Japanese Internment in the United States and Canada.

Information on the evacuation of Japanese Americans from Seattle (with pictures) in 1942.

Information about the real-life "Camp Harmony".

A Youtube clip about the history behind the book narrated by Jamie Ford. (7:15 min.)

Youtube video: Japanese Relocation - U.S. Government Explanation 1942 (Japanese Internment Camps) (9 min.)

Youtube video: Japanese Internment in Canada (5:55 min.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

October Book Club Selections

The Seniors Book Club will be meeting Wednesday. October 14th at 2:00 pm in the Library Training Room. Our October selection is Good to a Fault by Alberta author Marina Endicott. New members are welcome!

More about this award-winning book.....

In a moment of self-absorption, Clara Purdy’s life takes a sharp left turn when she crashes into a beat-up car carrying an itinerant family of six. The Gage family had been travelling to a new life in Fort McMurray, but bruises on the mother, Lorraine, prove to be late-stage cancer rather than remnants of the accident. Recognizing their need as her responsibility, Clara tries to do the right thing and moves the children, husband and horrible grandmother into her own house—then has to cope with the consequences of practical goodness.

What, exactly, does it mean to be good? When is sacrifice merely selfishness? What do we owe in this life and what do we deserve? Marina Endicott looks at life and death through the compassionate lens of a born novelist: being good, being at fault, and finding some balance on the precipice.

Praise for Good to a Fault

“Marina Endicott is really funny, a sweet-natured but sharp-eyed and quick-tongued social observer in the Jane Austen-Barbara Pym-Anne Tyler tradition, who can wring love, revulsion and hilarity from readers in a single page.”
–T.F. Rigelhof, The Globe and Mail

“Endicott manages to create utterly realistic characters with believable dialogue and thoughts, whether adult or child. And she makes them sympathetic even when they are doing something wrong…Like Endicott’s first book, Open Arms, and reminiscent of the work of Carol Shields, Good to a Fault is a profoundly humane novel.”
–Candace Fertile, The Vancouver Sun

(Source: www.free-handbooks.com)

The Monday Evening Book Club will be meeting in October on the third Monday of the month: Monday, October 19th at 7:00 pm in the Program Room. The book for discussion will be the well-known classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

More about this American classic:

"A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life...If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience...It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919...Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city's poor. Primarily this is Francie's book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie's growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."
New York Times

"One of the books of the century."--New York Public Library

(Source: www.harpercollins.com)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

September Book Club Selections

The Seniors Book Club is taking a summer break and will meet again on Wednesday, September 9th, at 2 pm in the second floor Training Room. We will discuss Reading by Lightning, the exciting first novel by Manitoba writer Joan Thomas. The book just won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best First Book (Canada and the Caribbean) and was the winner of an online poll in The Winnipeg Foundation's On the Same Page Literacy program (which means the novel will be promoted in Manitoba schools and to the public in general as THE book to read this year).

Here is a glowing review from Quill & Quire:

Most first-time novelists strain for the gold ring; Joan Thomas grabs it effortlessly in this wonderful book. Undoubtedly, her years editing, reviewing, and writing about other writers’ work in The Globe and Mail and elsewhere – winning a National Magazine Award in the process – have helped hone her skills.

Reading by Lightning begins in Lancashire and rural Manitoba in the early years of the 20th century. William Piper has reluctantly emigrated to Canada as part of a shady scheme that lines its Christian leaders’ pockets. Since then, he has hung on by dint of endless, soul-winnowing labour, yet he manages to send his 16-year-old daughter Lily to England, ostensibly to assist her widowed grandmother but in actuality as a way of removing her from the clutches of her evangelical mother.

Lily blossoms in England, finding warmth and easy affection. George, her autodidact cousin (“a brain on a stick,” his father growls), opens the world to her, and the two become “great pals.” But Lily is compelled to make them more – an impulse fuelled by hormones but doomed by history. The Second World War revs up, and George, desperate for experience, submits himself to the machine.

As George is drawn into the war, Lily is recalled to the farm in Canada to care for her ailing mother. Grieving and resentful, she finds herself back in a domestic trap of emotional and sensory deprivation. There is a risk that the novel could get stuck there too, but fortunately Thomas provides a surprising plot twist to keep the narrative moving. Although the war is far from over, Thomas’s final extraordinary scene leaves the reader with a sense of possibility and a faith in the future.

Thomas’s finely nuanced sensibility variously evokes Austen, Alice Munro, and Richard B. Wright. She captures verbal intonations as if she has overheard them, and conjures characters so vividly that we can almost reach out and touch them. A remarkable debut.

Jack McGreary is a young man with a troubled soul and a gift for scams. Raised by his father in the dying town of Paradise Flats amid the dust storms of the 1930s, Jack has learned to live by his wits. And when a pair of fast-talking swindlers named Virgil Ray and Miss Rose blow through town, Jack joins forces with them.

Together they go on a crime spree across the Southwest, pulling a series of elaborate and often hilarious cons. Young Jack is swept along into a world of hot jazz and cold calculating crimes of the heart, as the sexual tension between him and Miss Rose grows. Someone is being set up. (Source: www.willferguson.ca)

For a wealth of background information on this novel, go to the author's website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

June Book Club Selections

The Seniors Book Club will meet Wednesday, June 10th at 2 pm in the Training Room to discuss Spanish Fly by Will Ferguson.

Raised by his father in the dying town of Paradise Flats, Jack McGreary has learned to live by his wits. The year is 1939. Drought has turned America's heartland into a dust bowl, and the world is on the brink of war. Jack's father wants him to head north to Canada to sign up in the fight against Fascism. But when a pair of fast-talking swindlers named Virgil and Miss Rose blow through town, Jack falls in with them instead. Together, they go on a crime spree across the Southwest, staging a series of inventive and often hilarious cons, while sexual tension between Jack and Miss Rose grows ... Someone is being set up. (Source: amazon.ca)

For more information, visit Will Ferguson's website.

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet June 8th in the Training Room to discuss the memoir Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

For more information about the book and some interesting links, click here.