M.J. Rose’s Seduction Book Club

Wondering if those eerie feelings of deja vu could possibly mean anything?  Then, M.J. Rose’s Seduction is the novel for you.  With portions based on the biography of one of the famous literary figures in France, Victor Hugo, one may never look at a Ouija Board the same way again after navigating through this complex storyline of connected characters spanning various timeframes.  Thus, a reader of this fiction may find a quiet escape, by the sea no less, the perfect setting in which to read.

Interestingly enough this piece of fiction was written entirely in chirography which did not hamper her manipulation of words for the purpose of vivid descriptions one scintilla:

I’d only seen you two or three times but had been acutely aware of your sadness.  You wore it like a frock.  It clouded your eyes, turning the blue sky to gray.  Even the scent that lingered in a room after you’d left it reminded me of grief.  It was the fragrance of flowers past bloom in their death throes (52) . . .

These giant hulking rocks have stood here for all time, seen all things, watched silently as men used them for shelter, religious rituals, burials, for crimes, trysts, for hiding places.  (218)

Simile and personification at its finest . . .

For the purposes of book club, Rose offers recipes as well as suggested background music here.  Furthermore, your club may even wish to invite Rose to your discussion virtually via Skype, a reader’s dream come true.

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Anderson Harp’s Retribution Book Club

Alpha males anyone?  If this question interests you in the slightest, then Anderson Harp’s Retribution is the novel for you.  Protagonist Will Parker, a retired district attorney, takes the occasional deep undercover mission to relieve himself of his predictable life far in the woods and to fuel his adrenaline addiction.  This particular secret operation finds Parker fighting for his life in the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

If a fan of visual imagery in writing, look no further:

A man from the village representing the elders went there the following morning and found the walls covered in sprays of blood- the floors as well.  He stepped into a puddle of black, congealed blood, which stuck to his shoes like molasses.  Flies swarmed around the room, occasionally landing on his cheek, even as he brushed them aside.  The bodies had been pummeled by bricks found nearby, covered in the same sticky blood.  (86-7)

Written in a third-person narrative, the political commentary sprinkled throughout is unwavering:  

The Americans have a better chance of breathing life back into those two dead bodies, Yousef thought, than of changing these people [of Pakistan].  (87)

Tears welled in the corners of my eyes as the English teacher within embraced antagonist’s Robert Trantham’s approach of reading in reverse, “The old editorial trick caused one to see things in a different light.  Misspelled words stood out if you read a paragraph backward”  (384).

For the purposes of book club, one may serve “cold kupus and grah”  (111) or Dom Perignon and chilled caviar as served in first class on Qatar Air.  Personally, I would definitely avoid the chewing gum Parker favored, and instead, opt for the “tea and sweet biscuits”  (44).

Murder on the First Day of Christmas Book Club

Intrigued by the cover photo of Billie Thomas’ Murder on the First Day of Christmas, a photo of poor Santa lying face down in the snow with a Lucite icicle to the back, and then learning this book won a Shirley You Jest! Shirley HAH Award for fiction, I gathered my post-it notes, highlighter, and pen before turning pages.

My frenzied highlighting and belly laughter began on page four, paragraph five when Thomas describes the troublesome neighborhood chocolate lab:

Starting life as Lady Marmalade, the discovery of an un-dropped testicle had resulted in one of the few documented cases of canine sexual reassignment and his name change to Lady Chablis, as in the drag queen from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Besides bringing such life to a canine, a key player in this mystery,  my heart went pitter pat at Thomas’ use of allusion above and in reference later to the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Further visual descriptions ensue throughout this novel:

He wasn’t much taller than my five-foot-three-inches and had a body like a toothpaste tube, all his weight squeezed from the bottom to a bulging middle- not a figure that looks good in a squat.  (8)

My mother worked with guilt the way she worked with Venetian plaster, subtly and with a sure hand.  (12)

. . . a couple of aging debutants [sic], both of whom had indulged in a lethal cocktail of Botox and bronzer for the evening.  (27) 

Besides the phenomenal second-order writing, the plot, a mystery involving three murders left me clueless until the protagonist, Chloe Carstairs and her mother solved it for me.  

A well-rounded character, the reader learns all aspects of Chloe’s life, not simply her looks.  On a break from her boyfriend Jacob, Chloe contemplates:

I wasn’t ready to give up on Jacob.  As his workout partner, I had given him abs of steel.  As his decorator, I had glazed two rooms in his house and tiled a bathroom.  I had gotten him into his first pair of flat-front khakis, increased his sense of humor by 25% and broken him of his embarrassing habit of going “Woohoo!”  every time he saw cleavage.  A significant investment had been made in the man, and if any woman was going to reap the rewards, it was going to be me.  (44)

A personal trainer as well as a decorator, Chloe’s reasoning as to placement of her exercise equipment makes perfect sense to any logical reader:  

I sat my bench in the middle of four guys, so I could watch myself in the mirror and pretend I had backup dancers.  (92)

A fan of Thomas’ manipulation of language for the purposes of decription, my inner grey hair pulled taut into a bun English teacher reeled at the occasional spelling errors and repetition of lines in this piece of writing.  Revise, revise, revise . . ..  Okay, I am feeling better now that that has been discussed.

For the purposes of book club, Scotch and chocolates are out of the question for health reasons, of course.  However, readers cannot resist lobster puffs, crab cakes, wasabi-dressed asparagus, and Gruyere quiches in order to spark conversation about Saul’s Christmas party, where the mystery begins. 

Anna Quindlen’s Blessings Book Club

After a few starts and stops, I finally gave my full attention to Anna Quindlen’s Blessings and was determined to finish.  Although the beginning failed to hook me, once I reached the meat of the story, there was no turning back.  A story of an elderly woman, a convicted felon, and an aspiring young doctor whose lives all come together as a result of the unexpected appearance of a child.
The setting of the novel, Blessings, a rural family retreat, is not only idyllic in location, but also a domicile of familial dysfunction, both past and present.  Through careful unveiling, Quindlen highlights the tragedy associated with truths withheld over generations.  
What was refreshing was the life, revitalization, and perspective of the female protagonist, Lydia.  While philosophizing about life itself, she explains the tragedy of young death, the shock of middle-age death, and the inevitability of elderly death, how herstory, in essence, revolves around the loss of others.  In addition, kudos to Quindlen for allowing the younger male and female in the novel to have meaningful interaction without the presence of romance.
For the purposes of book club, a picnic lunch near a creek much like Lydia shared with Benny and Sunny as adolescents complete with bacon sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and a big Ball jar of lemonade may be the perfect conversation starter.

Anna Quindlen