Help Me Choose a Book Club Read

I’m hosting book club again in September! You know what that means: you all get to decide what book we read. There are five books listed below, and down at the bottom, a poll where you can cast your vote for the next book club read. As I did last time, I’ve provided the cover and the Amazon blurb for each book, so read through them and let me know which title you choose. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday.

And thanks for your help!

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Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel by [Rachel Beanland]

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. Here’s what Amazon says about it:

Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.

Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.

Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.

When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.

Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.

 

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Mexican Gothic by [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Here’s the blurb:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

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The Last Train to Key West by [Chanel Cleeton]

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton. Here’s what Amazon says about it:

For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in HavanaMirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

 

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The Glass Woman: A Novel by [Caroline Lea]

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea. Here’s the blurb:

Rósa has always dreamed of living a simple life alongside her Mamma in their remote village in Iceland, where she prays to the Christian God aloud during the day, whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night. But after her father dies abruptly and her Mamma becomes ill, Rósa marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry, despite rumors of mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death.

Rósa follows her new husband, Jón, across the treacherous countryside to his remote home near the sea. There Jón works the field during the day, expecting Rósa to maintain their house in his absence with the deference of a good Christian wife. What Rósa did not anticipate was the fierce loneliness she would feel in her new home, where Jón forbids her from interacting with the locals in the nearby settlement and barely speaks to her himself.

Seclusion from the outside world isn’t the only troubling aspect of her new life—Rósa is also forbidden from going into Jón’s attic. When Rósa begins to hear strange noises from upstairs, she turns to the local woman in an attempt to find solace. But the villager’s words are even more troubling—confirming many of the rumors about Jón’s first wife, Anna, including that he buried her body alone in the middle of the night.

Rósa’s isolation begins to play tricks on her mind: What—or who—is in the attic? What happened to Anna? Was she mad, a witch, or just a victim of Jón’s ruthless nature? And when Jón is brutally maimed in an accident a series of events are set in motion that will force Rósa to choose between obedience and defiance—with her own survival and the safety of the ones she loves hanging in the balance.

 

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These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901

These is My Words by Nancy Turner. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon—from child to determined young adult to loving mother—she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her, and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.

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Now you choose!

 

Until next time,

Amy

 

The First Last Tuesday Book Club Meets Here Today

Welcome to the first Last Tuesday Book Club! For those of you who may not know, I’ve started a new book club on my blog. On the last Tuesday of each month, we will discuss the book we’ve read for that month.

The book for March was The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro.

For those of you who haven’t read the book yet, here’s a quick synopsis:

You may recall reading in the papers back in 1990 that paintings worth over 500 million dollars were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in a stunning heist that still baffles investigators today. The paintings were by such masters as Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer, and Manet. The Art Forger is a fictional account of what happened following the heist.

Claire Roth, a struggling artist living in Boston, makes a meager living by reproducing famous paintings. She works for an online retailer of artistic reproductions and she is very good at her job.

Claire is somewhat of an outcast in the art community for reasons that are explained in the book. Because of her lesser stature in the art world, she is eager to score an opportunity for a one-woman art show in a famous Boston gallery. The trouble is, in exchange for being invited to do the show, she has to agree to copy one of the masterpieces allegedly stolen during the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist. When she becomes convinced the “original” which hung in the museum was actually a forgery, she becomes deeply entrenched in a web of deceit that could spell the end of her art career.

I enjoyed the book. It offers plenty of food for thought about the reasons certain artworks become “famous” or “classic.” Is it because of the inherent value of a piece of art or is it because a famous person painted it?

I’ve curated some discussion questions from several places online, and I’ve sprinkled in some of my own, too. Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below and ask any questions you  may have.

  • Do you think Claire shares any of the blame for Isaac Cullion’s suicide?
  • Do you find Claire to be a sympathetic character? How about Aiden?
  • Can you imagine yourself in a position where you want something so badly that you would do anything–even something unethical or illegal–to get it?
  • Do you think Aiden loves Claire? Why do you have that opinion?
  • What about the lies Aiden and Claire tell each other, or the corollary of that, what about the truths they keep from each other–do you think they can love with that level of deception toward each other?
  • Who is your favorite character and why?
  • Why are Claire’s works suddenly very valuable at the end of the book? They’re the same paintings that haven’t sold for years–is it their intrinsic beauty that makes them valuable, or the artist’s reputation, or something else?
  • Did you leave a review of the book online? 🙂

I must confess that as of the writing of this post, I haven’t reviewed the book online yet. I’ve got to put that on my to-do list. I hope you enjoyed reading and discussing The Art Forger. If you have any suggestions for a May book club selection, I’d love to hear them in the comments below. In the meantime, the selection for April is Stolen Memories, a Gothic mystery by Mary Miley. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s queued up on my Kindle and ready to read.

Until next time,

Amy